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Uniforms for the Final Salute program ensures unaccompanied veterans are laid to rest with honor

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Posted at 4:57 PM, Nov 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-01 20:41:13-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — To hear real estate broker Kim Erwin describe her friend and client Artie Kingston, makes you wonder how they became friends at all.

"I fired him a lot of times," joked Erwin. "Then the next day, he'd be meek and mild and walk into the office but not talk to me. He kind of turned sideways and said, 'are you still made at me?'"

Erwin wondered why Kingston never seemed satisfied with his home purchases. Yes, purchases. He never seemed settled.

"He'd buy one and sell one, buy one and sell one," said Erwin.

Sadly, Erwin had seen this before in her 40 years in real estate.

"There's a lot of veterans that don't have anyone," said Erwin, "It is amazing what they don't have."

Kingston, an Air Force veteran, lacked a support system; no one to lean on as the horrors he witnessed in Vietnam constantly rushed back.

He suffered through drastic mood swings — so much so, his family alienated itself from him.

"They just didn't want to deal with it," said Erwin. "They loved him dearly, but even his son has nothing to do with Artie."

After years of deteriorating health, Kingston died on Oct. 16.

Erwin was the only friend he trusted, so before he died, he asked her to make two promises: a burial with full military honors next to his mother and father at Memory Gardens, and for him to be dressed in an Air Force blues uniform.

After a quick internet search, Erwin found Goodwill's Uniform for the Final Salute program.

Together with sponsors like Peerless Cleaners and Trevino Funeral Home, unaccompanied veterans like Kingston receive free military dress uniforms (pressed by Peerless Cleaners) for their burial.

"The best way to honor them is to give them a first-class burial so that they're respected, and they are honored," said Marjorie Boudreaux with Goodwill. "We get to be their family."

"It's important that we always remember our vets no matter what situation they are in; no matter if they have family or not," said Doug Johnson, President and CEO of Peerless Cleaners.

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.

Contact Veterans In Focus reporter Pat Simon at pat.simon@kristv.com