BELMONT, NC (WBTV)- On Monday, mourners said goodbye to a Belmont veteran who died in a house fire.
The Gaston County Deputy Fire Marshal says the fire that killed Erickson at his home on Venn Drive last month was an accident caused by smoking materials.
Investigators do not know if he died from smoke inhalation or a cardiac problem.
Neighbors said Erickson was a veteran of two wars. They found it hard to believe he died on Veteran’s Day.
“We loved him,” said neighbor Laura Smith. “We all loved him.”
Smith’s stepson Randy tried to rescue Erickson from the fire.
“I just picked him up and toted him out,” said Randy Smith. “Any other human would have done the same thing. I just felt like I did the right thing for a veteran.”
Neighbors said Erickson was friendly and loved to tell war stories from his time serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
It’s unclear whether Erickson has any family in the area. Neighbors said he was family to them, and they did their best to look out for him.
Monday afternoon, about a hundred Patriot Guard riders escorted Erickson’s body to the Salisbury National Cemetery.
Erickson was buried with full military honors.
Family friend Linda Pryor accepted an American Flag in his memory.
“[He] always said the military would take care of him..thank God for the military..I just want to thank everybody for what they’ve done today,” Pryor said. “I think he’d be blown away if he could’ve seen it.”
To learn more about the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program, click here.
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