Respectful Burial

My father died three weeks ago.

After his death, I talked with a close friend whose father died in 2007.

Our experiences inspired me to write to you, and I ask you to please publish this as an alert to all veterans and to their immediate families: Please keep your military discharge papers in a safe place, and be sure your family members know where these documents are located!

Our fathers were both veterans who were buried with full military honors, but they were almost denied that right due to bureaucratic issues.

In both cases, the funeral homes contacted the VA for our fathers’ discharge papers, only to be told that the VA had no record of their service. (Some years ago, a fire destroyed a VA building, which may explain why some records were lost.)

Without those papers, it was impossible to prove they had served, and without that proof, neither of our families could have had the honor guard at our father’s funerals. By superhuman effort, an employee of the office that stores some of my father’s documents found his discharge papers and got them to the funeral home just in time for the honor guard to be arranged.

My friend’s father had been active in a veteran’s organization whose members were able to arrange the honor guard on his behalf, but for both our families, it was a near miss and very stressful.

It’s never easy to discuss topics like these ahead of time, but if you or your closest family members were in the service, please get this straight before need arises. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we did.

Thank you for the good work you do.

Proud Daughter of a Veteran

Dear Proud Daughter: I’m very sorry for your loss, and I appreciate being able to publish this as a helpful public service to readers.

I also offer your advice in honor of our “Uncle Bud,” whose funeral I attended just last week.

Bud had just turned 104 years old when he died; in addition to being a wonderful man, he was a very proud veteran of World War II, after which he served in the merchant marines.

The honor guard ceremony Uncle Bud received was so beautiful, dignified, and moving. Every servicemember who has served honorably also deserves an honorable final send-off, and I thank you for reminding family members to keep these important papers on hand.

Military One Source (militaryonesource.mil) has a comprehensive guide of eligibility for military honors. Interestingly, this does not only include members of the military. Members of the Commissioned Officers Corps of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also eligible.

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3 Responses to Respectful Burial

  1. All your records are at the DA. You no longer need to have any records anymore. It’s all attached to your social security number.

    Liked by 1 person

    • msw blog says:

      Can you tell me and readers what the acronym “DA” stands for? I am only familiar with the Veterans Affairs (VA). In theory you may be correct, but as a clinician, I often strongly advise individuals to keep their own records and a paper trail as human error is simply a part of reality.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, you can keep your own records but everything is electronic now. Back when when I was in the Army it was all paper and you’re right, you better had kept your good good paperwork but not now. It’s not that serious anymore. Department of the Army. It’s the name of all of our forms as well. Well not ALL but a lot. VA is for all vets. But each branch has their own department as well.

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