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Dying veteran had yard sale so he could be buried next to his parents. Others helped

Willie Davis, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War who has terminal cancer, held a yard sale in Brownstown, Pennsylvania, to help afford being buried next to his parents’ graves. Then a neighbor made him a GoFundMe.
Willie Davis, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War who has terminal cancer, held a yard sale in Brownstown, Pennsylvania, to help afford being buried next to his parents’ graves. Then a neighbor made him a GoFundMe. Screenshot from The Tribune-Democrat

When David Dunkleberger and Ed Sheets say they went to a yard sale last month in Brownstown, Pennsylvania, they were “floored” at what they found.

But it wasn’t a peculiar item for sale that caught their attention.

Instead, it was Willie Davis, a Vietnam War veteran, who was selling his prized belongings so he could afford his funeral — and to be buried next to his parents in Culpeper, Virginia, Dunkleberger told WJAC-TV. Davis has stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma, skin cancer that doctors say is terminal.

Davis told The Tribune-Democrat that he was feeling “desperate” after learning about his illness, so he began selling everything from vinyl albums to a dictionary to an antique toy truck.

“A lot of this stuff is special to me,” he told the newspaper. “But I don’t want to be a financial burden on the people I’ll leave behind. I’d rather do something about it.”

The day after meeting Davis, the pair of men say they returned to his yard sale and asked whether they could help out, according to WJAC-TV. The veteran agreed, and they set out to raise $5,000 through a GoFundMe page to help provide the man some financial stability.

“He’s done a lot serving our country,” Sheets told WJAC-TV, “so we wanted to kind of return the favor to him so that, again, his last days could be a little less hectic, a little more peaceful for him.”

So far, the GoFundMe page has raised just under $20,000 — four times more than the initial goal.

“We’ve all thought our lives were bad and we are going thru rough times,” the GoFundMe page reads, “but imagine worrying about selling all of your belongings before you pass away, just so you can be buried with with your parents.”

The GoFundMe page says that “100%” of the money will go to Davis, and that the money will be given to a funeral home in the form of a check. Davis’ sister will help make the funeral arrangements, according to the GoFundMe page, and any leftover money will be given to another veteran who is struggling.

For Davis, the support was completely surprising.

“I never expected somebody to come along like that,” he told The Tribune-Democrat. “They went way above where I ever expected.”

When a combat veteran returns to civilian life, things aren’t the same. The military trains them to be on constant high alert and cold and heartless, but they can't undo it when they get home. Coast vets share their struggles with us.

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