Homeless Navy Veteran laid to rest at the Chattanooga National Cemetery
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (WDEF) – Melissa Miner served in the US Navy as a dental assistant for 22 months. This past July she died in her homeless camp just under the Broad Street Bridge.
It’s unclear how someone who served our country could stumble upon homelessness, but experts say that it is far too common.
“The greatness of a man or woman is not determined by the size of their house but by the size of their heart. Something happened to the young mother who was 20 something and a dental assistant, that turned her into a 50-year-old woman living in a tent under a bridge,” says Phil Sumrall, Navy Chaplain Commander.
What is clear is that her service didn’t end when she returned home from the navy.
“She was a life changer to so many. Melissa ran her own nonprofit- she was a nonprofit. She lived underneath the broad street bridge but anyone was welcomed to come and join her. She had supplies ready to go; she had tents and tarps,” says Dylan Green, Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition.
To be buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery a veteran must have served in the military for at least 24 months. Melissa Miner was two months shy of that number. But thanks to local organizations who refused to take no for an answer, she was laid to rest today —–honorably.
“It’s a tremendous transition when you come from the military where you had a tremendous amount of responsibility and you leave and no longer have that level of responsibility. It’s a tremendous mental adjustment. She’s a member of our armed services and she deserved to be buried in a national cemetery. It was out of respect for her service that was my driver,” says Mickey McCamish, Retired US Navy Captain.
Though Miner had no known family members, friends tell News 12 she created her own family —in her homeless community– and seeing the number of people attending her service made it obvious— just how special she was.
“I think it’s really important to see everybody as human. Globally a lot of people don’t see homeless people as human. But at least people in this community are changing and starting to see people as people,” says Anne-Marie Fitzsimmons, Friend and Homeless Advocate.
It’s clear Miner touched many lives while serving her country and during her homelessness.
Thank you for your service