Saturday, January 8, 2011

The thanks of a grateful nation...

It's not often that I can tip my hat and say that something proper and right happened in leftist, self-serving New York. Then again, this was out on Long Island and not in Nanny Bloomberg's precious City of the Left.

Borrowed from The Wall Street Journal:

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — Anderson Alston served as an Army master sergeant in World War II. Private Frederick Hunter was a soldier from 1968 to 1971. Myron Sanford Mabry was in the Navy from May 1960 to July 1971. All of them died recently in New York City with no one to claim their remains.

Ordinarily, they would have been quietly buried in a potter's field, their graves unmarked. Instead, they and 17 other veterans who died in recent months will receive full military honors at a mass funeral this weekend, including prayers over their flag-draped coffins, bagpipers, the playing of "Taps" and local congressmen offering condolences.

The mass service Saturday at Calverton National Cemetery on eastern Long Island — the largest of it kind in U.S. history, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs — is part of a national initiative in recent years to clear a massive backlog of unburied or unclaimed cremated remains of both veterans and non-veterans.

"Our government promised every veteran a decent burial; that doesn't include sitting on a shelf in some funeral home basement," said Fred Salanti of Redding, Calif. The retired Army major is the founder and executive director of the Missing in America Project, which strives to provide a respectful funeral for any veteran who received an honorable discharge.

Salanti estimates two or three million remains — mostly cremated ashes — are in morgues or on funeral home shelves across the country. In most communities, local government pays for the cremation of the homeless or indigent, but funeral homes that provide the service are then left storing the remains for years, sometimes for decades, he said. The organization presided over the September funeral of a Union Army Civil War veteran and his wife from Missouri, whose ashes remained unclaimed since 1923.

Salanti and his organization of about 800 volunteers have since 2006 contacted funeral homes and morgues across the country, seeking to clear the inventory of unclaimed remains. They have been sanctioned

by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which contacted the group about assisting with the New York City cases, Salanti said.

The New York veterans had identification documents when they died and the group worked with the VA and other agencies to confirm their military service. Some of the men may have been homeless or poor, although others may have simply led lonely lives with little contact with their families.

On occasion, relatives who never knew a veteran died have come forward after the group has held a burial, Salanti said.

Salanti said he doesn't blame the VA for the predicament, noting some veterans have been estranged from their families and there may have been no available next of kin to contact when they died.

John Calderelli, 75, a member of Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244 and the New York representative to the Missing in America Project, will serve as master of ceremonies at Saturday's funeral. The Korean War-era veteran said he feels he is repaying a promise to his comrades who gave their lives in service to the country.

"They made a commitment," Caldarelli said. "When our veterans are abandoned and there is no family to speak for them, I will speak for them. I am their family."

Michael Picerno, director of the VA's Calverton National Cemetery, said the funeral will be the largest mass burial of unclaimed veterans in history.

"These veterans served their country and we're here to ensure they get the honor and a burial they deserve," Picerno said. "It doesn't matter who they are or what happened to them after their service."

Also working to clear the backlog of unclaimed remains is the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program. The national network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers picks up the bill for caskets and other expenses associated with the burials. Dignity since 2000 has provided funeral services for more than 850 unclaimed veterans in 32 cities.

"At one time these men and women raised their hand and said 'I will give my life for my country,'" said Chris Marsh, Dignity's director of corporate alliances. "Regardless of what happened to these people in their lifetime, that's not for us to judge. Any veteran who received an honorable discharge should be recognized in this way."

The 11 a.m. service at Calverton will include prayers and comments from local congressmen Timothy Bishop and Steve Israel. Caldarelli said the flags on the veterans coffins, which ordinarily are presented to the next of kin, will be distributed to representatives of some veterans groups assisting with the ceremony.

"Anytime I see a soldier who is abandoned, a sadness comes over me," said Caldarelli. "They made a commitment. We feel America should recognize them, we should respect and honor them and see they are interred properly."

—Copyright 2011 Associated Press

Set to the same tune as Dvorak's 9th symphony, third movement, "Going Home" is often played by a bagpiper in addition to "Amazing Grace".

Going home, going home,
I'm just going home.
Quiet-like, slip away;
I'll be going home.
It's not far, just close by;
Jesus is the Door;
Work all done, laid aside,
Fear and grief no more.
Friends are there, waiting now.
He is waiting, too.
See His smile! See His hand!
He will lead me through.

Morning Star lights the way;
Restless dream all done;
Shadows gone, break of day,
Life has just begun.
Every tear wiped away,
Pain and sickness gone;
Wide awake there with Him!
Peace goes on and on!
Going home, going home,
I'll be going home.
See the Light! See the Sun!
I'm just going home.

Words by William Arms Fisher and Ken Bible.

At military funerals, the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776.

The honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times. I've done it, and it's not always as easy as it looks. As daunting as it was for me simply folding the flag at the end of the duty day, I can't imagine the pressure of getting it right the first time every time for a service member's funeral. That is simply not the time to make a mistake; you want everything to be perfect, for the sake of the family and to honor your fallen comrade. Contrary to popular belief, the 13 folds are not to symbolize the original 13 colonies.

The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.

The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life.

The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.

The 4th fold represents the weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

The 5th fold is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.’

The 6th fold is for where people’s hearts lie. It is with their heart that they pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America , and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

The 7th fold is a tribute to its Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of their republic.

The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.

The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born.

The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding them of their nations motto, ‘In God We Trust.’

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked tri-corner hat, forever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.

The bugle call of "Taps" was originally used at the end of the day to signal "Lights Out". Indeed, there actual words set to the music.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.


Brooke said...

I am glad to see these men finally getting a decent resting place.

They deserve at least that.

jay son said...

thank you for pointing out the importance involved in the folding and presentation of the flag.

for me,it gives new, if not added significance to this ceremony, and underscores the fact that we are a judeo-christian nation.