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Strangers assure veteran he is not forgotten at Biloxi burial

BILOXI -- The words "never forgotten" reverberated through Biloxi National Cemetery on Monday as a World War II veteran was buried.

The words were on a blue ribbon that adorned a spray of red and white carnations at the front of the pavilion where at least 75 people, total strangers to Robert Creech, who spent his final days in a care facility in Ocean Springs.

They were repeated through a brief service by Chaplain Phil Audet of the Veterans Affair Health Care System that adjoins the cemetery.

"You are all a demonstration of exactly why each an every one of us who has had the opportunity to put our right hand up and to serve our country faithfully, you are living witnesses we are never forgotten," the chaplain said.

"No one is forgotten. And in a very special way, we see our MIA flags everywhere, no one is forgotten. All are remembered and we await for all to be accounted for."

A dozen or more Patriot Guard Riders, holding United States flags, stood at attention as the casket bearing Creech's body was rolled into the pavilion. A bugler played taps and a Navy Honor Guard folded the flag that had been draped across the casket.

The ceremony was over in a matter of minutes but several veterans, spanning the generation between World War II and the present, lingered afterward.

World War II Army veteran Joe Haynie of Gulfport was among them. The 93-year-old served with Gen. George Patton in Europe.

"When I saw (the turnout)," he said. "I came here thinking this man doesn't have any known relatives, I didn't want him to be alone.

"So many men were buried by civilians in Germany, in Holland. They will never find them all."

Cemetery officials said the crowd was about double the usual crowd at a "forgotten hero" service.

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