Photos have a way of pulling at your heartstrings. For many, it was that of a Salvadoran father and child. Both were migrants trying to cross the Rio Grande in late June. Feelings of sadness and outrage ensued.
The photos in this post pulled at my heart strings for somewhat happier, but still solemn reasons. Five U.S. military veterans — a trio from World War II including a female Army lieutenant and two who served in Korea — were buried in Long Island National Cemetery July 11.
They didn’t die together in combat, but of other unnamed causes. The one thing they shared beyond their “veteran” status: they or their families, if known, were without means to provide a proper but certainly deserved burial. Local and national organizations dedicated to providing dignified military funerals to veterans who were homeless, poor or were without families at the time of their death sponsored the service.
THAT was happier news.
Some other notable details about that day (thanks to Newsday who had a related article):
- a few hundred Long Islanders gathered (veterans, Boy Scouts, firefighters, etc.)
- Why the commander of a local VFW attended: “Five reasons (pointing to the silver urns). Nobody claimed them, so we claim them. Now they’ll rest alongside their sisters and brothers, like we all hope to do someday.”
- it marked the first time organizers laid to rest a woman (video excerpts)
I could only imagine how a similar service would look in the Phoenix area. Would the person being remembered be someone who received services from MANA House or one of our Catholic nonprofits the reach out to those struggling?
While they’re not all necessarily veterans, local news affiliates have given us glimpses into the regular burials of indigent at White Tanks Cemetery.
- Who cares for the homeless when they die on Phoenix Streets? (AZCentral, 2018)
- Many homeless who die buried at White Tanks Cemetery (KJZZ, 2018)
- When there’s no one to care (Cronkitezine, 2007)
I haven’t attended one of these in person, but from hearing and reading about them, my hunch is attendance doesn’t even remotely approach three digits like it did July 11 in Long Island. Some day soon, I imagine I will find myself at one of these burials. Or perhaps the annual Thanksgiving Memorial Service André House coordinates.
I almost swung by a funeral for a St. Vincent de Paul client this month. I didn’t know the person and wasn’t “on assignment,” but was willing to be present and honor the life that was lost. Apparently there’s a recurring number of funerals for residents at Ozanam Manor, a transitional shelter for older adults and adults of any age with a disability. They move in with long-untreated or chronic illnesses and sometimes are not able to recover. (Note: a good number also gain employment, transition into their own places, get married, etc.)
Like I told someone at St. Vincent de Paul recently as she shared news of another funeral, at least the residents had somewhere comfortable to spend their remaining days on earth. I hope every funeral, in particular the veterans and those buried at White Tanks Cemetery, has at least a good handful of people in attendance there to genuinely honor the dead.