Jerry Wayne Pino, a Vietnam veteran, had arranged just about everything as he neared the end of his life. After serving in the Navy as a petty officer third class, he wanted to be buried at Biloxi National Cemetery. He passed away at age 70 on December 12, 2016, in Long Beach, Mississippi.
But despite Pino's wishes, nothing happened. His body was kept on hold at Riemann Family Funeral Homes as weeks went by and no family members or friends came to claim the veteran's body. After three weeks, an employee had an idea...
The Sun Herald reported:
“He was an unclaimed veteran,” said Cathy Warden, who works at Riemann Family Funeral Homes, which handled Pino’s services. “Eva Boomer, who also works at Riemann’s, is a veteran, too. She asked me, ‘Do you think we could get (Warden’s son) Bryce and some upperclassmen to come out?’ ”
Unfortunately, Bryce already had accepted an invitation out of town, which he nearly canceled to serve as one of Pino’s ballbearers. But he texted some classmates and within minutes, Boomer had six young men to serve as pallbearers.
Long Beach High school classmates JT Tripp, Bailey Griffin, Joseph Ebberman, Jake Strong, Kenny McNutt and James Kneiss gathered on Tuesday, wearing the agreed upon khaki pants and button-down shirts.
Stacie Tripp, whose son was among the volunteer pallbearers, posted on Facebook:
"This morning, JT and fellow Bearcats will be pall bearers at a veteran’s funeral service. Proud mom when he told me that no one should be buried without people who care present, especially a veteran.
Exposure to patriotism and respect comes from the home, schools and community. Proud of all these boys!"
And pallbearer Bailey Griffin, 17, explained his choice to Fox News:
“It was the right thing to do. He served our country. He fought for our rights. For him to be buried with nobody there was just sad. I told myself I was going to do it and I did it.”
Pino's military service entitled him to a flag-draped casket and an Honor Guard, which was provided by the Navy. After the service, the folded flag was presented to funeral director Jim Hudson, who in turn gave it to the boys.
Because four of the six teens are members of the Long Beach High School football team, it was determined that the flag will be hung in the locker room — with a plaque bearing Pino's name.
Warden says she is proud of the boys for stepping up: “It doesn’t cost anything to take some time to do something like this. If our young people can figure this out, our country is going in the right direction.”