This program provides military uniforms for the funerals of unaccompanied veterans

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

“I fired him several times,” Erwin joked. Then the next day he was soft and gentle and walked into the office but didn’t talk to me. He kinda turned on his side and said, ‘Are you still mad at me?'”

Erwin wondered why Kingston never seemed satisfied with his real estate purchases. Yes, shopping. It never seemed fixed.

“He would buy one and sell one, buy one and sell one.” said Erwin.

Unfortunately, Erwin had seen this before in his 40 years in real estate.

“There are a lot of veterans who don’t have anyone,” Erwin said, “It’s amazing what they don’t have.”

Kingston, an Air Force veteran, had no support system; no one to lean on when the horrors he witnessed in Vietnam kept coming back.

He suffered from drastic mood swings, so much so that his family grew distant from him.

“They just didn’t want to deal with it,” Erwin said. They loved him very much, but even his son has nothing to do with Artie.”

After years of failing health, Kingston died on October 16.

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

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

Working with sponsors like Peerless Cleaners and Trevino Funeral Home, unaccompanied veterans like Kingston receive free military 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 are respected, and honored,” said Marjorie Boudreaux of Goodwill. “We get to be their family.”

“It’s important that we always remember our veterinarians no matter what situation they find themselves in, whether 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 [email protected]

Ryan H. Bowman