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1200 People Attended A Funeral For An Unclaimed Army Veteran
In a closed casket ceremony, nearly 1200 strangers packed into a Fort Wayne, Indiana, funeral home to honor a man they never knew.
James Douglas Beavers, a 74-year-old Vietnam War-era veteran whose remains were unclaimed, received full military honors during his funeral Dec. 17. Beavers died Nov. 23 and went unnoticed until a neighbor found him nearly five days later.
The local coroner’s office ran a notice in the local papers and on social media, hoping family or friends would come forward to claim the former Army specialist.
“Due to state law we have to wait a certain amount of time for friends or family to come forward to make arrangements and that never happened,” says David McComb, president of the local funeral home. He stepped-up to provide a proper ceremony and burial for Beavers.“Even neighbors didn’t know much about him. He led a very private life. We don’t even have a photo of him.” McComb explained.
According to military records, Beavers enlisted as a payroll clerk in 1963. Orphaned at birth and originally from Charleston, West Virginia, he served majority of his military career in Berlin, Germany, during a heightened period of the Cold War.
Beavers was honorably discharged from the military in 1966 but spent another three years serving in the Reserves. He eventually settled in Marion, Indiana.
Local veteran-related organizations, current service members, city and state law enforcement officials, and even a veteran from Oklahoma came to honor a man who never married or had children.
“I think it’s very thoughtful everyone came to pay their respects,” said Fort Wayne resident Mary Keeling.
She and her husband Jeff felt compelled to attend the funeral when they read Beavers had no friends or family.
“My father just passed away in November,” said Keeling as she brushed a tear away from her cheek. “He was a World War two veteran. He would have wanted to be here so I came for him too.”
Her husband said he never had the chance to serve in the military, but would have been a Vietnam War-era veteran. He and Beavers are close in age, a fact that hit home for the Keelings.
“I don’t think it matters if you’re a new or old veteran. We need to get behind our military. I don’t care what age; we need to show we care.” he said as he and his wife braced one another against the cold wind at the burial site, with an American Flag in hand.
In a simple, intimate Roman Catholic service, hundreds surrounded Beavers’ burial site as an Army chaplain and local friar officiated. As Friar David Meinzen gave final thoughts, prayers and blessings, he reminded those in attendance that James came back home from military service during uncertain times.
“Maybe he carried around old wounds. A lot of those ghosts stay with you,” said retired Air Force master sergeant and local resident Jimmy Urban. A Vietnam War-era and Gulf War veteran, Urban pondered what Beavers’ military experience may have been like.
“Maybe he lost touch with old friends. Maybe he carried around a lot of pain and hurt from life.” Urban added. “All we want is the respect of the American people. He shouldn’t have died alone like this. He deserved more respect than that.”As a bugler played “Taps” and the local American Legion post fired a three-round volley salute, Beavers was laid to rest surrounded by brothers-and-sisters-in-arms and community members who refused to be considered strangers to James.
“He’s not alone and we’re not strangers,” insisted Urban. “Anybody that served is a brother. He’s not alone anymore.”
MONS, Belgium (Reuters) - The United States will send 20,000 troops to Europe next April and May in its biggest military exercises on European soil since the Cold War to underscore Washington's commitment to NATO, a senior allied commander said on Tuesday.
Days after a NATO summit in London at which U.S. President Donald Trump called low-spending European allies "delinquent", U.S. Major General Barre Seguin said the exercises, centered on Germany, will be the largest of their kind in 25 years.
"This really demonstrates transatlantic unity and the U.S. commitment to NATO," Seguin, who oversees allied operations from NATO's military headquarters in Belgium, told Reuters.
Gold Star family members might finally see an end to the so-called "Widows Tax" thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020.
The top Pentagon watchdog has announced it would be investigating all deaths of recruits during initial military training over the past five years, the agency said in a statement last week.
In a Dec. 4 memo, the DoD Inspector General said it was changing the scope of an investigation it had opened on Nov. 18 that was titled Evaluation of Medical Resources and Guidance to Trainers at Recruit Training Centers in the DoD. Its new title, the IG said, would be Evaluation of Medical Protocols and Deaths of Recruits in the DoD.
While its original objective of looking into the medical resources available to recruits would remain the same, the IG said it would now also review all deaths of recruits at military basic training facilities between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2019.
The move comes in the wake of several deaths at basic training facilities over the past year. In April, the Navy announced a safety review after two prospective sailors died at its recruit training facility in Great Lakes, Illinois. Seaman Recruit Kelsey Nobles died after a fitness test that month; Seaman Recruit Kierra Evans also died after the run portion of the fitness test.
In September, an 18-year-old soldier died following a "medical emergency" before a training drill at Fort Jackson, S.C.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has disciplined more than 20 Marines over misconduct at its San Diego boot camp since 2017, according to The Washington Post. The action came in the wake of a scandal involving the death of a 20-year-old Muslim recruit named Raheel Siddiqui, who fell 40 feet to his death at the Parris Island training facility, where he and other Muslims were targeted for abuse by their drill instructor (the instructor was later sentenced to 10 years in prison at court-martial).
According to the IG, Pentagon investigators will visit all DoD recruit training facilities and interview personnel from each service's education and training commands. They will also speak with personnel at military medical facilities, the Defense Health Agency, and those assigned at the Military Entrance Processing Command, which does the initial intake for civilians going into military service.
The number of substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct against senior Army officials increased this year, according to an Army Inspector General report recently presented to service leaders and obtained by Task & Purpose.
The document, which lays out broad details of IG investigations undertaken in fiscal year 2019, looks at investigations specific to senior Army officials, which includes "promotable colonels, general officers and senior executives," according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz.
Marine Corps senior leaders have begun to express cautious openness to the idea of making the service's boot camps fully co-ed. But if Congress has its way, the service may be pushed toward full integration sooner than expected.
The final conference version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision that would require the service to integrate both its East Coast and West Coast entry-level training facilities within the next eight years.