Military Funerals

Posted August 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Forest Harvey Pic.psd



by Forest Harvey

In the lifetime of all of us we have always had wars and conflicts around us in the world. At one time or another almost every family has been touched by the news that one of our family members has become a war death. With this in mind my thoughts turn to memories of the past.

I remember going to my first military funeral in the forties in Keyhoe, Kentucky. My father, the Reverend Fred Harvey was the minister.

A mother’s son had been sent home from WWII. Even though I was too young to understand it made me sad to see all of the sorrow, crying and loss. In that day another soldier was sent with the body to stand guard by the casket and sometimes other military men to do the military part of the service.

As a preacher’s kid and later a minister myself for over fifty years I have attended many military funerals and in the most of them I was the minister. I did the funeral service and committal consigning the body to its original element.

Every week when I read the Clinton County News obituaries, if there are veterans listed I get my Military History Book and add the death date. Many of them I remember well. I either attended school with them or put gas in their cars at New Palace Gulf–phone 3302.

With people being human and individual personalities there is always some humor along the way.

I recall a military funeral in Masontown, West Virginia in 1963 for a WWII Vet and coal miner. The ground was covered with 23 inches of snow and the temperature was 0 degrees.

The man’s wife was somewhere over in Pennsylvania bar-hopping. After four days trying to contact her we buried him without her.

The local V.F.W. was in charge of the military part. The county road grader pushed the snow out of the road one lane only to the cemetery. I rode with the funeral director in his four-wheel drive Suburban with the body. When we got to the cemetery the tent was up with chairs.

Some of the people almost froze to the chairs. When the three V.F.W. members stood to do their part one of them was drinking too much and slipped and fell down in the grave under the casket. The Mayor of Masontown told the men to back off and he would finish their part. I got through my part but it was cold. We made the trip home OK.

Another military funeral I remember was in Richmond, Indiana in 1984. The American Legion was to conduct the military part of the program. They had everything except a bugler. For that they were using a boom box they had hidden behind the tent ready to “blow Taps “ they thought. When the time came and the man pushed the button..nothing. He kicked it and said a few choice words that did not go with the funeral committal. I had to follow that act the best I could.

Donald Dyer told me a story that happened to him when he had the funeral home in Albany, Kentucky, during a military funeral someplace down below the Wolf Creek Dam. While Taps was being played, a boy grabbed his mother by the arm. “Mother, Mother, they are blowing for him now”.

So many of the military men and women are gone and it is now hard to put together a military funeral. The Boy Scouts and high school band members who play Trumpet have stepped in. May the Lord bless them. When we come to the end of our road may there be someone to blow for us and may we find grace and peace and all mysteries be made plain.

Forest Harvey