James Ellis

James Ellis spent years living in the woods and traveled the Southeast before returning home and asking for help getting out of homelessness. Within a few weeks after leaving transitional housing, he was found dead, a victim of an apparent homicide.

Though he had no living relatives, a Woodstock veteran will be escorted by an entourage of community members and laid to rest with full military honors Monday at the Georgia National Cemetery near Canton. 

James "Jimmy" Ellis, 37, grew up in Woodstock and lost his parents when he was a teenager. After high school, he enlisted in the Army, where he was a helicopter mechanic for four years. But outside of his military service, Ellis struggled to adjust to civilian life, and experienced multiple periods of homelessness.

In 2017 Ellis entered the Semper Fi restaurant and met Retired Master Sgt. Ralph Roeger, asking for help to get off the street, said Jim Lindenmayer, director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program. Cherokee Homeless Veterans connected him with the Veterans Empowerment Organization in Atlanta, where he received transitional housing and worked as a security guard.

A few weeks before his death, Ellis told his VEO colleagues that he still wanted to work there, but he wanted to live on his own. He set up a campsite near a cemetery in Atlanta, where his body was found with a gunshot wound Jan. 10, the victim of an apparent homicide. No arrests have been made in the case.

Monday's memorial begins with a processional at 10:45 a.m. from Pool Funeral Home, 1970 Eagle Drive, Woodstock. A graveside service has been estimated to start at noon at the Georgia National Cemetery, 1080 Scott Hudgens Drive, Canton.

Local veterans groups, including the Marine Corps League and Patriot Riders, as well as officers from law enforcement agencies, will also be in attendance, Lindenmayer said.

Cherokee Homeless Veteran Program officials plan to set up a plaque in Ellis' honor at the homeless veteran monument at Cherokee Veterans Park. Donations can be sent to Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program c/o American Legion Post 45, 160 McClure St., Canton, GA 30115.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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