A Galloway veteran, Alvin Dickson, who served in the United States Army during the late 1950’s, was to be buried alone at Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery. His only surviving relative, a daughter, lives in the Las Vegas area and was not of ability to attend.
As is routine for most area funeral homes, Adams Perfect Funeral Home of Northfield contacted Last Salute Military Funeral Honor Guard of Galloway to conduct military funeral honors. Last Salute conducts over a hundred military funeral ceremonies each year in our area, sadly, some for homeless veterans or veterans without family or friends.
In these circumstances, the members of Last Salute will often be the only people attending the burial or service. With no next of kin or friend present, the flag is folded and placed back upon the casket. The funeral home stores the flag in hope that someone will come forward in the future.
On the morning of Alvin Dickson’s funeral it was different. As Last Salute prepared its equipment for the days ceremony, people began texting and contacting Last Salute for information about the service. Local social media was buzzing about the “veteran being buried alone”.
There now seeemed to be a chance that people would be attending. Last Salute’s Humvees rolled into the Veteran’s Cemetery over an hour prior to the scheduled service to set-up and there were already two cars waiting.
Over the next hour the cemetery was flooded with cars. trucks and buses as well as the American Legion Riders on their motorcycles.
The unexpected large crowd stood in the chill and the rain waiting for the hearse to arrive.
As the hearse pulled in the assembled crowd was called to attention and they saluted as members of Last Salute with the help of members of the 177th escorted the flag draped casket to the grave.
Once the flag draped casket was placed at the grave a short committal prayer was given and then Last Salute began its full military honors ceremony.
The beginning of the ceremony always starts with Last Salute’s Sgt. at Arms Chuck Knutson addressing the crowd about the ceremony they are about to see. As part of this address, the prayer from a top Last Salute’s Prayer Box is read and typically, a family member places a prayer card or photograph of the fallen into the prayer box. They are told that once they enter their loved ones prayer card into the box, they become a permanent member of the Last Salute Honor Guard and will be with them always, watching over all that they do.
As there was no family present, Last Salute asked Marco Polo, an Atlantic County Marine Corps. Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient to place the card into the box.
Once the card was placed into the box, Last Salute then fired a Civil War cannon for a single volley, rang the memorial bell three times, fired three volleys from the rifles, played Taps and then folded the flag.
The folded flag was placed upon the casket and saluted. As a final honor, the crowd walked up to the casket one at a time and rendered a Last Salute.
Last Salute Military Funeral Honor Guard and the Galloway Patriot newspaper would like to thank all of those who took the time to attend and honor a fallen hero. We would like to thank the 177th, the Legion Riders, AMVets, Adams Perfect Funeral Home and everyone else that took the time to care and stand by someone that stood for us.
See more photos of this ceremony at Last Salute