“Very disrespectful:” Outrage on social media after photos shared of vet at visitation without coffin

CATOOSA COUNTY, Georgia — Imagine going to a visitation for your loved one, and their body isn’t in a coffin. Instead, they’re lying on a gurney. That’s what happened to the family of a 15-year veteran, who says he was disrespected by the funeral home. They, and others on social media are outraged.

Losing a loved one is hard enough, but James Taylor said what he had to go through as he worked to lay his father to rest is something no family should have to endure.

“I told the guy, I said, ‘this was very disrespectful to my dad,'” Taylor said.

Taylor said the body of his father, George Taylor was lying on a table at Heritage Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe during his visitation.

“Most of the family would not go in there and look at him like that and we had a big issue with that,” Taylor said.

But Taylor said seeing his father’s body like that isn’t what he’s most upset about.

“They came to me and told me that unless the $9,000 was paid, they couldn’t put him into the ground at the military thing. He would have to sit in the freezer until we paid it or the insurance comes through,” Taylor said.

So Taylor took to social media — posting photos and asking for help. They spread like wildfire within just hours, with commenters outraged.

WTVC took Taylor’s concerns to the funeral home’s director.

“We were trying to honor the request and let them have some closure by viewing their loved one. Yes. Absolutely,” David Cummings said.

“Money has never been a reason not to serve a family,” Ben Freburg said.

Hours before the funeral, WTVC met with Beverly Roe, George Taylor’s sister-in-law. She said she disagrees with James Taylor’s claims.

“I mean, yeah, it would have been nice if he was put in a coffin. It would have been really nice, but they did the best they could do,” Roe said.

Taylor said after the public outcry, the funeral home has agreed to give his dad a coffin. When the funeral came to an end, a small procession escorted Taylor’s body to the Chattanooga National Cemetery for his burial. Representatives there said there are specific rules when it comes to burying veterans, and they wanted to make sure they were followed.

“We were concerned when we saw the social media post that the veteran would be interred in the appropriate container,” Charles Rudy Arnold said.

James Taylor said the funeral home agreed to wait until the family gets the life insurance money to cover the funeral costs. He said he’s so passionate about this because he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to another family.

Those at the Chattanooga National Cemetery said there are programs offered by the VA for families that need help paying funeral costs.