Acts of Kindness
Thrift shop owner finds veteran’s ashes in storage unit and helps get them home
When Shawn discovered the young veteran's remains inside the unit, he knew something needed to be done.
Kate Miano
06.07.22

It’s incredible to see the randomness and significance of human lives and histories bumping into one another. Lives intersect in fascinating ways, and sometimes one person’s surprising but innocuous discovery can help someone else heal old wounds.

Shawn Pullen is used to running into strange odds and ends. But he wasn’t prepared for this.

Pullen owns a thrift shop in Tennessee. One day, he bought a storage unit with items already in it. The plan was to comb over the storage unit for anything that would be worth reselling. And then he encountered something that you can’t put a price on.

YouTube - NewsChannel 5
Source:
YouTube - NewsChannel 5

It was the ashes and flag of a deceased military veteran. The ashes were identified as those of Navy Veteran Ryan Newcomb, who had served as a nuclear engineer in the Navy. He passed away in 2017.

YouTube - NewsChannel 5
Source:
YouTube - NewsChannel 5

When Pullen discovered these ashes, he knew that Newcomb deserved more than being stuck in storage.

Pullen decided to put his ashes up for display at his thrift store. Since he didn’t know anything about Newcomb’s family, he wanted to find some way to honor the late veteran. Pullen told News Channel 5:

“I felt he spent too long being secluded…This way he was out and people saw him and I would say hi to him almost every day when I walked through the door.”

Patrons of the thrift store loved how Pullen honored Newcomb.

YouTube - NewsChannel 5
Source:
YouTube - NewsChannel 5

Some people even got involved in trying to find any connections he might still have in the world. One customer from Louisiana found out that a funeral home in Louisiana had done the services for Newcomb. Going off of that one clue, they decided to ask if the funeral home had any ideas.

Eventually, the funeral home helped connect Pullen to Newcomb’s younger brother.

YouTube - NewsChannel 5
Source:
YouTube - NewsChannel 5

Chris Newcomb was living in Denver and was so surprised to hear about everything. The ashes had been left in the care of Ryan’s widow, but Chris and she had not spoken since his funeral. Because of all this, Chris was extra grateful when Shawn Pullen shipped his brother’s ashes out to Denver so he could have them.

YouTube - NewsChannel 5
Source:
YouTube - NewsChannel 5

Chris had a lot to say about what this chance connection and having the ashes returned means to him. He says:

“I never expected to have his remains again…It wasn’t something expected…He’s coming back to where there are people who are going to care for him and not left in a storage unit. I can spread his ashes in places we used to frequent, that’s a tremendous gift to us all.”

Thanks to Shawn’s help, Ryan was able to be put to rest in a meaningful way.

YouTube - NewsChannel 5
Source:
YouTube - NewsChannel 5

Because Ryan’s ashes are now with family, the ashes can be spread in significant places. Chris plans on visiting his brother frequently at all the places his ashes are scattered. This reunion has brought a sense of calm and peace to the Newcomb family, thanks to the random chance and actions of some complete strangers.

For his part, Pullen will keep Ryan’s flag box at his store, as a reminder of what this random discovery meant to him.

Watch the video below to learn more about this touching story!

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By Kate Miano
hi@sbly.com
Kate Miano is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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