LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Dozens of people gathered on Fort Sill Tuesday to pay their respects to a Vietnam and Korean War Veteran who had no family in town.
Retired First Sergeant Francis Darrell Pope passed away on August 21. On Tuesday, he was laid to rest with full military honors at the Fort Sill Cemetery on Post.
Pope was born in 1936 and joined the Army in 1953.
"He’s got the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He lied about his age and got into the Military when he was 17. He did two tours in Vietnam and another tour in Korea,” said Tony Brown, who was close with Pope.
After his service, Pope settled down in Lawton, where he formed a bond with fellow visitors to VFW Post 5263. A few, including Brown, even called him grandpa.
"My wife and I have known Pope for about five years. He became a surrogate grandfather, both of my grandparents had passed away,” said Chris Lucas.
"After my biological grandpa died, he stepped in and filled that hole that was lost. He was a great guy, he’d do anything for you. He’d give you the skin off his back, not just the shirt,” said Jeremy Kimbrough.
While not everyone had that relationship with him, his friends say Pope never met a stranger.
"Great guy, would talk your ear off if he liked you and if he didn’t, he’d still talk to you. He showed everybody respect. He is somebody everyone should have known,” Kimbrough said.
"Pope was one of those guys who was a Lawton fixture. He was a lot of things to a lot of people. Sometimes he was a brother in arms, sometimes he was a grandfather, sometimes he was just a brother. Sometimes he was a father. Sometimes he was just a guy sitting there that would tell you a story and have a good conversation,” Lucas said.
He also loved motorcycles. Several members of the VFW rode their bikes to the funeral, calling it Pope’s last ride.
"It’s awesome, especially all these guys driving their bikes to show support for him, it’s awesome. Makes me even more proud of him,” Brown said.
"This would have meant a lot to him. This would have meant a lot to him. To see the outpouring of people here and the love, the family, the commitment, the dedication, the loyalty. It would have meant a lot to him,” Lucas said.
While Pope did not have any local relatives, he was survived by a niece and nephew, as well as four great nieces and nephews and four great-great nieces and nephews. He was 82 years old.