NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Desert Storm veteran will be laid to rest in Nashville on Friday, but with little family left in the area, officials are calling upon the community to help honor him.
Richard “Rich” Poirier, 55, passed away on March 30, 2023. Poirier was a member of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, a military decoration given to soldiers in the rank of colonel who fought in active ground combat.
Poirier lived a private life with a daughter and little other family around to tell his story, but Lloyd Sharp, Director of the Cheatham County Veterans Service Office, wants to make sure Poirier gets the service he deserves.
Sharp happened to meet him a few years back when Poirier was working as a caretaker for the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery in Nashville. At the time, Sharp, who was a Veterans Service Officer for the state, was asked to help Poirier with his benefits.
“It was kind of like a turn of events where I ended up taking a job as the director of this county’s veterans services and he was a resident of the county. I didn’t know that at the time,” Sharp said. “But I’ve helped him in the past with his VA benefits and he’s been a frequent veteran in our office that we’ve tried to take care of and help.”
After no word from Poirier for a few months, Sharp said he found out on Monday, May 15 that he had passed away, likely at a Veterans Affairs medical facility, which then notified the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery where he was pre-registered for burial.
Before spreading the word, Sharp was worried only a few people would attend Poirier’s funeral service. Sharp and some Cheatham County Commissioners have since been making phone calls and social media posts in hopes of drawing a bigger crowd.
Across the country, there are a number of veterans who are “unaccompanied” at their funerals.
“There are a lot of times when you have veterans who are unaccompanied, they don’t have any family, any friends. They may be homeless,” Sharp said. “So, a lot of veterans and a lot of active-duty service members make it a point to go to those types of funerals, so our brothers and sisters don’t go alone.”
Sharp said several members of local veteran’s service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America, have now said they plan to attend the funeral service on Friday.
Community members are also invited to attend and have come out in droves for similar services in the past. In 2019, hundreds of people from miles away came out to the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery to give an emotional farewell to a veteran they had never met.
“Cheatham County is very pro-veteran, they’re very supportive of veterans,” Sharp said. “I did put a post out on our Facebook page. Just that alone is going to get several people out there. I think we’re going to have a good turnout for Rich.”
Poirier’s funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 19 at the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery at 7931 McCrory Lane in Nashville. Sharp said he hopes to see as many people there as possible.
“It’s just so they don’t go alone. These guys and gals served the country with honor and distinction,” he said. “Some of them are combat veterans, some of them are veterans at peace time, but they all served the country and I think it’s only right to honor them by being there when they move on to whatever it is beyond this life.”