A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

No One Left Behind: The story of ‘Sarge’
and the efforts to give him a proper burial

 (Photo provided)

Harold Eugene Laws, known as Sarge, received a proper burial and now lies in honor Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North in Grant County. (Photo provided)


The call to the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs came from Kentucky State Police, Post 5. A man was struck and killed crossing a road in Carroll County. He had no family that anyone knew of. People in the area knew him only as “Sarge.”

Although Sarge had been married and divorced, there was no one to claim him. But he had an angel looking after him by the name of Alicia Parham, a criminal analyst with Post 5, and someone who took it upon herself to make sure that Sarge received a proper burial.

More than a dozen troopers came to the service. Another two dozen or so from Sarge’s community also came.

Paul Hartless is the head of KDVA’s Field Operation Branch, charged with getting veterans all of the benefits to which they are entitled. Once he learned of the case, he searched the records and confirmed that Sarge – Harold Eugene Laws – was indeed a veteran, discharged honorably in the 1950s.

That confirmation was more difficult to make than it should have been. Sarge’s records, along with the records of thousands of other veterans, were destroyed in a 1973 fire at National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. Only records kept by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Louisville and the VA Medical Center enabled Hartless to confirm Mr. Laws’ veteran status.

Hartless passed this information on to Al Duncan, cemetery director of the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North, in Grant County. Because Sarge had died without financial resources, Duncan considered him as an eligible candidate for KDVA’s Indigent Burial Program, and Commissioner Heather French Henry authorized the funds to bury him in the state veterans’ cemetery.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, a cold, cold day, Sarge’s burial took place. Parham had vowed: “I intend on attending his service and bringing a contingent of troopers with me. I think Mr. Laws deserves that.” She more than kept her word.

More than a dozen troopers came to the service. Another two dozen or so from Sarge’s community also came. Sarge had built up a reputation in the community of always showing kindness to all.

Duncan, the cemetery director, led the service, honoring Sarge with kind words and offering a prayer for all to join. Taps were played and some tears were shed. Two service members carefully folded Sarge’s American flag and presented it to a man who was Sarge’s friend. Sarge now lies in a place of honor.


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