Vietnam War veteran George Taylor, 71, died on May 8, and as a result of a life insurance payment dispute, a Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, funeral home refused to put the man in a casket. Instead, the mortuary displayed him on a gurney, covered up with an American flag, and with a towel supporting his head.
Taylor’s son, James, told WTVC-TV that he felt the funeral home's treatment of his father's body was "disgraceful."
"[The funeral home] did say that until the $9,000 [was paid out by the life insurance company] that they were charging us for the casket and everything; it had to be paid before we could put him into the ground at the National Cemetery," James said. "It's a little bit of disrespect to my family because we want him buried. We don't want him in the freezer you know. We may not have the money to pay [for] it, but you know they can help us out a little bit on that."
To station WRCB-TV, James said, “We asked him to be shown, but I didn’t realize they were going to bring him out on the table like that, open. I was hoping that they would cover it up a little bit more ... it was a disrespect to my dad.”
A day before Taylor's burial, family member Ella Moss shared a photo of the controversial display on Facebook.
Moss wrote, "Here is A SOLDIER that was laid out for a Viewing. Mr Taylor was a 2 Term Vietnam Vet. There was some issues about his iinsurance [sic]. The day of his viewing they learned that he wouldn't be in a casket. They were offered to bring him out on a table. An [sic] this was how he was brought out. I can only imagine the shock. We live in the Greatest Country in the world , an [sic] this is the best we can do for our Soldiers. Not even a pillow foe his head. Please help get this to the necessary place. So there will never be another Soldier forgotten or left behind. AMERICA !! Is better then [sic] this."
Moss's original Facebook photo of the deceased Taylor received almost 4,000 shares and 2,000 comments on Facebook, many of which were negative.
One of the many commenters wrote, "This is a disgrace to our fallen soldiers and our country."
David Cummings, a representative for the funeral home, told WTVC that the funeral home felt it did nothing wrong, and instead were "trying to honor the [family's] request and let them have some closure by viewing their loved one."
Cummings also admitted that the funeral home employees were subject to death threats after Moss's photo went viral.
Ultimately, Taylor was allowed a casket and a proper burial.
Director of the National Cemetery, Charles Arnold, was told of the incident by a funeral home employee. Speaking with WRCB, Arnold said that proper arrangements had been made for Taylor's casket and funeral, and as a result, Taylor was buried in the Chattanooga (Tennessee) National Cemetery with military honors on Friday.
"It relieves me," Taylor's son, James, told WRCB about Arnold's intervention, "but it still broke my heart that my dad had to lay in there and have to probably go through that if nothing was done."
Flags at the cemetery were flown at half-mast Friday during Taylor's burial.