UPDATE: Heritage Funeral Home says they will make arrangements to properly display military veteran George Luther Taylor's body in a casket before his interment Friday. Photos circulated on social media that show Taylor's body resting on a gurney and partially covered with an American flag.
Taylor was laid to rest Friday afternoon under cloudy skies at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. The flag on the hill near the top of the cemetery was at half-staff.
The Taylor family was told their loved one could not be be put into a proper casket and buried after their insurance was approved, but contested.
"They did say that until the $9,000 that they were charging us for the casket and everything; it had to be paid before we could put him into the ground at the National Cemetery," said James Leon Taylor, the son of George Luther Taylor. "It's a little bit of disrespect to my family because we want him buried. We don't want him in the freezer you know. We may not have the money to pay [for] it, but you know they can help us out a little bit on that."
Ben Friberg, the Managing Director at Heritage Funeral Home, did not wish to speak on camera, but explained the funeral home did what they were asked to do. He explained that typically when a family is unable to pay for their services up-front they are directed to local organizations for financial support.
Channel 3 pushed for more answers about the funeral home's policy, but have not heard back.
"We asked him to be shown, but I didn't realize they were going to bring him out on the table like that; open," Taylor said. "I was hoping that they would cover it up a little bit more, and I told the guy inside I would deal with it but it was a disrespect to my dad."
Charles "Rudy" Arnold, the Director of the National Cemetery, tells Channel 3 he was made aware of the issue at Heritage Funeral Home by an employee. Arnold explained he called Heritage to make sure Taylor was properly buried. During that phone call, he said the funeral home expressed that they would place in Taylor in the proper casket.
"It relieves me, but it still broke my heart that my dad had to lay in there and have to probably go through that if nothing was done," said Taylor.
Channel 3 has chosen to not show all of the photographs of the veteran's body out of respect for the family.
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The photo, shared with Channel 3, shows the body of George Luther Taylor, draped in an American Flag and lying on a gurney. Taylor, a US Army Vietnam Veteran, can be seen in the picture wearing an American flag t-shirt with an eagle on the front. His body was placed on the stretcher, with nothing underneath, but a white towel placed under his head. A family member took the picture inside Heritage Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, on Thursday when family members gathered to receive friends.
Family members and community members reached out to Channel 3 upset about the way Taylor’s body was presented saying the funeral home did not follow their wishes, citing an issue with insurance as a possible reason for why the funeral home did not place Taylor’s body in a casket for the viewing.
Channel 3 reached out to Heritage Funeral Home for comment. A spokesperson says he is waiting on approval to release further details, but he briefly told Channel 3 that the funeral home followed all their guidelines and policies.
“That’s what the family asked for,” said Ben Friberg, Managing Director.
The family has gathered at the funeral home ahead of a scheduled 1:00pm funeral Friday. Taylor is expected to be laid to rest in the Chattanooga National Cemetery with Military Honors following that service.
Stay with Channel 3 for more on this developing story.