DAYTON — Nearly 100 people showed up to Dayton National Cemetery Friday morning to honor a Vietnam veteran and Lima native who had no known remaining family.
James “Jim” Robert Cummins, 63, died March 10, 2019, at Lima Memorial Health System. He graduated from Wapakoneta High School and went on to serve in the Vietnam War in the U.S. Army from 1972 to 1974.
No family or friends were able to be located to return his remains to. Though she had no connection to Cummins, Carmela Daniels, a social worker with the Dayton VA, heard and wanted to be sure he received a proper service. She acquired the ashes and set up a ceremony with Dayton National Ceremony with full military rites.
“A few months ago I was in a meeting and someone had informed me they had the remains of a veteran who had passed away and they didn’t know what to do with them, they didn’t know how to get him to his final resting place and had asked me if I would help,” Daniels said. “I called and made arrangements because he had no one, he didn’t have any family or any friends, anyone that could take care of that for him, so I just wanted to do something for someone who was in the most vulnerable position.”
Since Cummins had no next of kin, Daniels was the one who filled that role and received the folded American flag and bullets honoring him. Daniels said the items would proudly be displayed at the Dayton VA social work service office.
“I’m connected because we care for our veterans in life and in death, and I am humbled to hold this flag and be a part of his life, even in this part because we all need someone,” she said. “I didn’t want him to be alone, so if I had to come alone then that was fine, but I’m appreciative of all the support that was given.”
She was shocked and touched when so many people attended the service.
“It was very heartfelt and sincere from the community support. I saw it all over Facebook and I had many calls where people had reached out and said they would come and stand with me in this. That’s what we wanted to begin with was someone to come and stand for him and his sacrifice that he gave for our freedom,” she said.
Ralph Reynolds, commander with the St. Marys VFW, was one of those who made the trip to Dayton. Reynolds also served in Vietnam from 1971 to 1972 and said despite never meeting, Cummins was his brother.
“There are many, many reasons (to come today), but if you want to prioritize them, I would say it’s because he is an American hero,” he explained. “I think it’s important that he has his friends with him today. … This is our promise to our veterans not just today, not just 20 years ago, but all the way back to 40-50 years ago when we served. I always think about the ones that didn’t make it home, and I’m really happy that he did.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.