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Teens Honor Veteran Who Died Without Family

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Published on: March 11, 2017

A Vietnam Veteran died in December 2016.  It’s nothing unusual for people to die, but when a veteran dies without any living family, it is quite sad, even heart-wrenching.  Yet, teens from Long Beach, Mississippi took time out of their busy schedules to be pallbearers for Jerry Wayne Pino, who died at the age of 70 on December 12.

Pino, a Baton Rouge man, served his country in Vietnam after joining the military in 1970.  After leaving the military as a petty officer third class, he lived on the Coast.

Though he had set his service in order prior to his death, desiring to be buried at Biloxi National Cemetery, he didn’t have pallbearers.

Cathy Warden, who works at Riemann Family Funeral Homes, was taking care of the services for Pino.

“He was an unclaimed veteran,” said Warden. “Eva Boomer, who also works at Riemann’s, is a veteran, too. She asked me, ‘Do you think we could get Bryce and some upperclassmen to come out?’ ”

Bryce is Ms. Warden’s son.  However, he had already scheduled to be out of town on the day of the funeral, but that didn’t deter him from seeking out his friends for their help in the matter.

He immediately began to text some of his classmates and within minutes, he had six young men respond that they would help with the funeral as pallbearers.

“Bryce sent the text and asked them to wear khaki pants, shirts and ties. ‘Let’s do this!’ he told his classmates. Almost immediately, they said yes,” Warden said.

Four of the young men were part of the school football team.  JT Tripp, Bailey Griffin, Joseph Ebberman, Jake Strong, Kenny McNutt and James Kneiss all honored Pino as pallbearers at his funeral.

“This morning, JT and fellow Bearcats will be pallbearers 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,” wrote Stacie Tripp, mother of JT, on Facebook. “Exposure to patriotism and respect comes from the home, schools and community. Proud of all these boys!”

CJ Poltack commented on a memorial page for Pino, “I am so proud of the Long Beach High School men who helped put Mr. Pino to rest. I see from their school website they had a Veteran speaker at their school on September 7th. Perhaps that speech to the student body said much more to those individuals than we could have imagined. Thank you Long Beach High School.”

“It doesn’t cost anything to take some time to do something like this,” said Warden.  “If our young people can figure this out, our country is going in the right direction.”

The Sun Herald added:

The Navy provided the honor guards, who folded the American flag that draped Pino’s casket and presented it to Jim Hudson, the funeral director for the service.

Hudson, in turn, gave the flag to the boys, four of whom are on the Long Beach football team. All six decided they would have it placed in the Bearcats’ locker room. Warden said she would have a case made with a plaque that bears Pino’s name to display the flag.

The Daily Mail reports more good news, “Other teenagers in the US have volunteered their time to bury unclaimed veterans as well. In November, Today reported that a group of high school students in Michigan also served as pallbearers to homeless veterans.  More than 50 students at Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy are trained as pallbearers.”

Though I despise the Vietnam War, I am grateful to men like Mr. Pino, who are willing to serve.  Even more, I’m hopeful in seeing young men like these who are coming up in this generation.  Let’s continue to encourage more of them!

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