In June of this year, I was approached by a member of our post who was in a terrible situation. She had recently heard of her estranged husband's passing. The husband was a Green Beret master sergeant, five tours in Vietnam and a Bronze Star recipient. The problem was that the funeral home where he was cremated, wanted a substantial amount of money for his release. The widow in this case did not have the financial means to pay for his release. This 84-year-old widow was the only family available to recover his remains. There was an urgency in this manner because if there wasn't any action taken to secure his remains, his ashes were going to be unceremoniously dumped in the Gulf of Mexico. When I heard this, the post adjutant and I initiated action to secure this hero's ashes. I immediately contacted the director of the funeral home to let him know that we were taking action to raise the funding necessary to obtain the ashes. We then started a GoFundMe page and started soliciting funds. The fundraising went on for a couple of months, all the while hoping the funeral home didn't dump the ashes in the ocean. I made it a point to stay in touch with the home director to assure him we were actively seeking funds to get his ashes released. The director understood and promised he would work with us.
The GoFundMe went okay, but we were still short of the required fee. I contacted the director again and let him know how important it was for us as a military community to retrieve the MSgt’s remains. He was very understanding and said he’d reduce the monetary requirement. With this new figure, I went to the post and requested assistance for additional funds to meet the monetary requirement. The funds were made available immediately.
In September I drove from West Palm Beach to Largo, on the west coast of Florida, took possession of the MSgt’s ashes, and returned them to his widow. We are now waiting for the paperwork allowing us to give him a dignified burial in the national cemetery.
With a lot of teamwork and the attitude of “no soldier left behind,” this story had a successful outcome, and we accomplished our mission.
Ron Rising, Ph.D.
Post Service Officer
Post 141, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Author's note: Grew up in San Diego, joined the Navy and saw the world. Retired Navy officer, and service officer for American Legion Post 141.