FORT JACKSON, SC (WIS) - A U.S. Air Force veteran whose remains were part of an investigation that led to the arrest of two people claiming to be his caregivers in a bizarre case spanning from New York to Arkansas will be laid to rest Tuesday at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.
Robert Brooks, 89, died of natural causes in early February, but Brooks' family was just recently notified of his death after investigators found his remains in a discarded suitcase at a rural farm in Arkansas.
"He served during one of the most tumultuous times in our nation's history in World War II," said Army veteran and Patriot Guard rider L.Z. Harrison, Jr.
Brooks' two caregivers, Virginia Colvin and Michael Stivers, have since been charged with abusing a corpse, but investigators say they also attempted to sell Brooks' possessions and defraud Social Security. Two others have been arrested as alleged accomplices.
"He was a war hero who could have been buried in the National Cemetery. Instead, he ends up in a suitcase dumped in a field in Arkansas," Lt. David Gilbo of the Johnstown, New York Police Department said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Brooks' son, Jay Brooks, received the call about his father's remains being located in Arkansas. Jay has set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising the money to give his father a proper military burial.
"My dad is a hero, in my eyes, that selflessly served his country during its time of need," Jay said. "His remains deserve the respect and dignity that I believe he rightfully deserves. I am asking you with the heaviest of hearts to help me with the expenses to bury him beside his grandson in South Carolina, with full military honors."
At last check, the fundraiser has raised just over $5,000 of the $7,000 goal.
Meanwhile, the Patriot Riders Honor Guard is providing an escort for Brooks from Little Rock all the way to Fort Jackson, where Brooks will be remembered Tuesday at 1 p.m.
"Now it's our job to show his family that his service to our country is to be treated with honor and respect in a dignified manner," said Harrison.
The memorial service planned for Robert Brooks on Tuesday is open to the public. Anyone interested in attending is asked to be at the administration building at Fort Jackson National Cemetery by 12 p.m. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders will be there to provide further instructions.