TYLER, TX (KLTV) - He was a familiar figure in one East Texas city for decades, a patriot and retired marine who never missed an opportunity to help other veterans and show his patriotism.
His name was Danny Whyte, but he was simply known to people in Gregg county as ‘the gunny.’
After health complications, Whyte died Saturday.
For decades he was seen welcoming home troops at airports, proudly wearing his uniform at military ceremonies,
The news of his passing was hard for fellow veterans.
“I could hardly believe it, it left an empty spot in me when I heard it. Gunny was the kind who could transcend all lines of people,” said retired navy and Vietnam veteran Marvin Gibson.
"He was one of a kind individual that nobody can not know who he is when he's present," said VVA chapter 987 commander and fellow Vietnam veteran Rick Homer.
He was a tough as boot leather drill instructor, two tours in Vietnam, was wounded, decorated numerous times. But his service didn't end when he retired from the marines.
"I would call him at a moments notice, when I could find anyone else, to fold a flag, and he'd say yes ill be there in a minute. lets go," says VFW 1183 post commander and air force veteran John Ashcraft.
“Gunny had gotten a letter from one of the men in his platoon 30 to 40 years ago. He thanked Gunny for saving his life in Vietnam,” Gibson says.
He drove veterans to hospitals, visited them at home, any veteran in need. Anytime. Anywhere.
“When I was sick before my transplant, Gunny was at my house five days a week. Anything that he could do to help, and that’s the Gunny I remember,” Homer says.
He also took those in need into his home, friends say.
"Gunny would take veterans in his home. Homeless people. Give them food give them shelter, help them get employed, helped them get back on their feet. He was a man that would reach into your heart," says Gibson.
In character, he concealed his sickness from many, not wanting to draw attention to it.
For his friends it's a painful goodbye.
"I'd wish that Gunny would have following seas and the wind to his back as he travels on. I loved Gunny," Gibson says.
Funeral services have not yet been finalized.
He was 80 years old.