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Community becomes family for fallen Vietnam veteran

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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) -- Tuesday was a day to honor a Vietnam veteran named Charles Ray Sorrell who passed away early last week in Odessa, Texas, but there was not one picture or family member to be found.

“When you’re taking your last breath, someone needs to be there,” Hospice Nurse Rhonda Thompson said. “Somebody needs to care that you exist and that your life matters.”

It was an emotional day at the Hubbard-Kelly Funeral Home as strangers from all walks of life came together to say farewell to Sorrell.

The veteran served his country for nine years, but recently he spent many days in hospice fighting for his own life.

“In hospice, you find out that a lot of people are alone,” Thompson said. “They’ve outlived their families and their money.”

His nurse wanted to make sure he wasn’t laid to rest alone. After taking care of him for weeks, Thompson learned Sorrell was homeless and the last surviving member of his family.

The nurse said the most difficult part was arranging a funeral the hero deserved. After much persistence and help from the Midland Vet Center, he was honored and thanked by his newfound family.

According to the Texas General Land office, the veteran served in the Army as an intelligence analyst and achieved the rank of Specialist 5. He was recognized with several awards including Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the National Defense Service Medal and more.

The Hubbard-Kelly Funeral Home said the funeral services were provided free of charge.

The Patriot Guard of Midland escorted Sorrell to his final resting place at the Veteran Cemetery in Abilene.

Read the original version of this article at cbs7.com.