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Owensboro community pays last respects to Navy veteran with no local family

July 11, 2019

“We wanted to make sure this guy had people here to send him on -- he has ‘family’ here today,” said Jeff Free, senior ride captain at Patriot Guard Riders, Inc.

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David Richard Harris was born on February 24, 1945. Harris died in May of 2019, without an obituary or funeral service. When it became public knowledge that Harris had served his country in the United States Navy, it did not take long for word to spread throughout the Owensboro and veteran communities.

On Wednesday evening, July 10, at 6:00 p.m., nearly 100 people gathered at Owensboro Memorial Gardens to pay their last respects to a man most of them had never met.

Although Harris held several jobs and titles throughout his lifetime, the one that held the most significance was that of Quartermaster 2nd Class and Submarine Warfare Specialist for the U.S. Navy. Harris served aboard the USS Benjamin Franklin, a Polaris nuclear missile submarine, from 1964-1968, something that would come to the attention of Chase Bank employee Holly Bailey.

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“Holly Bailey at Chase Bank took care of his finances, made sure his bills were paid and that he had money for food,” said Glenn Peyton Taylor, Jr. of Glenn Family Services. “She didn’t do it for recognition but she should be recognized — and this man definitely deserves to be represented for his service.”

According to Bailey, when she met Harris, he was having financial trouble and soon began to experience dementia and paranoia, so she felt the need to step in and help.

“He had no one,” Bailey said. “I removed myself from being a banker and helped him get to his doctor’s appointments, and everything. God put me in his life so I could make sure this happened today — I just didn’t expect it to be like this.”

Photo courtesy of Leslie McCarty

When Bailey contacted Chase Bank customer and Warrior 180 founder Jeff Hastings about Harris’ military status, she said she expected him to arrange “a little color guard.”

Instead, a detail arrived from the Louisville Naval Reserve, Daviess County Judge Executive Al Mattingly and Owensboro City Commissioner Pam Smith-Wright were in attendance, over 50 members of the Patriot Guard Riders arrived with flags in tow and the state commander from the Kentucky Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) made the two-hour drive in order to pay his respects.

“I can’t believe this — I am just so overwhelmed,” Bailey said.

Photo by Melody Wallace

After the two uniformed sailors from the flag detail performed their ceremonial flag folding maneuvers, they presented the flag to Bailey in Harris’ memory.

“He served our country and earned that respect,” Taylor said. “We needed to have it — it was just the right thing to do.”

July 11, 2019

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