PHILADELPHIA - On Tuesday, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a time of great unrest and upheaval in America.
FOX 29's Jeff Cole tells the story of a Vietnam veteran's grave marker found tossed aside in a Philadelphia neighborhood, and how residents reached out to us to help, looking for a way to get the stone in the hands of the proper authorities.
Tucked behind an apartment building, near a trash container, there's a long, white stone that marks a life.
It was the life of George Allen Bryant, who served his county in the United States Army in the long, national nightmare that was the Vietnam War.
A North Philadelphia resident told us he's actually seen the marker here for years, but either because it was covered with debris or had been recently flipped over, he'd never noticed the inscription.
"What did you think when, for the first time, you saw that this was a military marker?" Cole asked.
"I felt really like I had to do something about it because my family served in the Marines, and the Army and the Navy," Scott Smith said.
He says once he and others realized it was a veteran's marker they took pictures and posted them on social media.
Smith called FOX 29 seeking help.
When we arrived, neighbors quickly gathered around the stone, wondering aloud how it could have ended up near West 67th Avenue and North Sydenham Street, a few feet from the front of a neighborhood market.
"It kept on yelling out to me to do something about it, you know? Like to talk to somebody, or to find where it belongs to or where it needs to go – or where it needs to go back to," Smith said.
Just a few blocks away, on a rise with Philadelphia's skyline in the distance, stands Philadelphia National Cemetery, a Veteran's Administration-run final resting place for the nation's veterans. It is a stunning sight, with its carefully placed rows of stark, white markers.
We alerted cemetery managers of George Bryant's stone alongside the trash container.
They checked and found no record of Bryant being buried in cemeteries they administer but sent a worker to meet us so we could lead them to the stone.
Weighing some 200 pounds, it was placed in a truck and taken back to the national cemetery, where it will be held until it's determined where it belongs or what to do with it.
"It's a shame that it was a Purple Heart veteran that was out here, just on the ground. His tombstone was on the ground," neighbor Terry Austin said.
One thing is certain: The stone marking George A. Bryant's time on this Earth and his service to his country is no longer next to a Dumpster on the corner of West 67th and Sydenham.
Austin said, "I'm just hoping that it goes back to its rightful owner."
When our story aired Monday night, we asked viewers who might know the family of veteran George A. Bryant to call the Philadelphia National Cemetery at 215-504-5610 and ask for its director.
Other viewers helped us locate Bryant's obituary online. We'll continue to keep you updated as we report this story.