Kenneth D Smith
March 1, 2015
For some memorial service snapshots, click photo below:
March 18, 2015
|From The Statesman Journal statesmanjournal.com 03/17/15:
Salem funeral home pays tribute to homeless veterans
Capi Lynn, Statesman Journal 8:36 a.m. PDT March 18, 2015
Rodney Angier served in the Navy during the Korean War. Harry Auman and Kenneth Smith both served in the Marine Corps, Smith during the Vietnam War and Auman not long after.
We don't know what units they were assigned to, where they were deployed, or what medals they might have earned.
But those details were irrelevant to those who gathered Tuesday to honor the three men during a memorial service at the Salem funeral home of Howell, Edwards, Doerksen with Rigdon-Ransom.
"All we know is they're brother veterans, and we're here for them," said Richard Romano of the Patriot Guard Riders. "We're here to honor them and their service."
Chances are Rod, Harry and Ken, as they were referred to by the chaplain, were not honored in life. And when they died, homeless, no one claimed them.
Howell, Edwards, Doerksen is helping make up for that neglect, providing free services, caskets and ceremonial honors through the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program. Rod, Harry and Ken will be interred today with full military honors at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.
"They may not have blood relatives," said Mindy Rocha-Barella, funeral home manager, chairperson of the local program, and wife of an active duty Oregon Army National Guardsman. "But everyone here is their family."
One woman has left flowers beside the guest book for each service the funeral home has held for homeless veterans. This was the third in less than three months.
About 20 people came to pay their respects to three men they had never met. Chaplain Bob Weinberger, a retired Army veteran, was honored to officiate at the service.
"I was thinking of all the rejection that these three men must have faced in their lives," Weinberger said. "Today, by you being here, they finally get the honor they deserve."
Rod, Harry and Ken are the fifth, six and seventh veterans to be provided for since Howell, Edwards, Doerksen became the steward of Oregon's homeless veterans burial program on Jan. 1.
The funeral home is a provider in the Dignity Memorial network, which launched the program in 2000. The program is available in 30 metropolitan areas across the country and has provided services for more than 1,600 homeless veterans.
"There's a lot of work involved, but we see the importance of it," Rocha-Barella said. "And since we're in the capital city, it's probably a good place to be recognizing this."
The Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs estimates that on any single night there are 58,000 homeless veterans across the state. Local veterans' advocates expect the numbers to rise in the next three to five years, when an estimated 30,000 veterans will be coming home to Oregon, and one in six will become homeless.
Rocha-Barella transferred here from a Dignity provider in Portland and brought the program with her.
"It's near and dear to my heart," she said. "This could be my husband. This could be a family member. I would hope someone would take the time to make sure they were laid to rest and received the honors they deserved."
Nobody knows where Rod, Harry and Ken are from or where they lived at the time of their deaths. They came to the funeral home from the Portland VA Medical Center. We know only their age, their branch of service, sometimes the years they served, and in Harry's case that he earned the rank of corporal. Rod was 79, Harry was 55, and Ken was 54.
Rocha-Barella said the program will serve any qualifying veteran in Oregon.
"If we get a call from Grants Pass about a veteran needing services, we will go get that veteran," she said.
Howell, Edwards, Doerksen, per state law, will hold the deceased veteran for 10 days while attempting to locate next of kin. They make phone calls, send registered letters and post obituaries. Obituaries for all seven veterans honored through the program so far were published in the Statesman Journal.
It costs about $6,000 for a full-service funeral package for each veteran. The funeral home applies for VA funds, but reimbursement is minimal.
"Sometimes we get a check for $300, sometimes nothing," Rocha-Barella said.
Patriot Guard Riders from Keizer, Independence, Jefferson, Mill City, Silverton, Stayton and Sublimity came to honor Rod, Harry and Ken. Some of them also will participate in the interment ceremony today, along with Honor Guards from Oregon, the Navy and the Marine Corps, the Veterans Color Guard from Eugene, American Legion Post 180 from Milwaukie, and the Band of Brothers from Prineville.
"It does me good to see all the response of other veterans," said Ron McFadden, a Salem native and retired Air Force tech sergeant who served in Vietnam. "It doesn't matter what branch of service or what war."
McFadden, who works part-time for the funeral home, will be graveside today for a very important mission. The ceremonial folding and presentation of the flag is normally reserved for a family member, but in these cases, there isn't one. McFadden will accept the flags on behalf of Rod, Harry and Ken.
"It touches me every time they hand me a flag," said McFadden, who also accepted flags for the previous four homeless veterans served. "It's like being a family member. They don't have anyone to speak for them."
Those flags, preserved in triangular display cases, occupy a prominent space on a shelf in Rocha-Barella's office. The other three will be added after today.
"Let's say five years from now someone comes forward and says that was my uncle," she said. "We have something to give them."
David R. Masingale, Vietnam Army veteran, died Dec. 24, 2014. He was 67.
Thomas G. Shisler, Vietnam Navy veteran, died Jan. 2. He was 62.
Dean E. Troendly, World War II Army veteran, died Jan. 31. He was 90.
Harry A. Auman, Marine Corps veteran, 1979-83, died Feb. 13. He was 55.
Rodney C. Angier, Korean War Navy veteran, died Feb. 17. He was 79.
Kenneth D. Smith, Marine Corps veteran, died March 1. He was 54.
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