Special military services conducted by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars has been on the decline.
Eric McMillen, Commander of Ford City VFW Post 4843, said that families of veterans are not being asked if they would like a special military funeral ceremony conducted, and that funeral homes are the blame.
“Funeral homes aren’t getting a hold of us letting us know when there’s a veteran there,” McMillen said.
A recent funeral where a veteran passed away and was laid out in VFW attire sparked renewed frustration on the members of the VFW.
“There was a gentlemen who passed away, was laid out, and actually had his VFW hat in his hand, and was in full uniform. He would have wanted a ceremony and we were never alerted to do one. It happens over and over again.”
McMillen said the VFW wrote letters to all the funeral homes urging them to inquire of families who are burying loved ones who were veterans.
“I just don’t see it being difficult to go down their little list of things they’ve got to do. ‘Would you like a service? Yes. Call the VFW.’ Not that hard.”
McMillen singled out one area funeral home that has provided exceptional service.
“Snyder Crissman. They get a hold of us any time there’s anything. They call.”
McMillen said members try to keep tabs on veterans, but it is not the role of the VFW to approach the family.
“We all look. Usually, we only know when someone frequents (stops into the VFW). So, there’s a lot of members who don’t come in anymore, they’re older. So, then we check the obituaries. But, we can’t just show up. We’re not going to ask about the ceremony. That’s up to the funeral home and the family. So, we went yesterday and just dropped a poppy in the casket, but the gentlemen wouldn’t have been in full uniform if they wouldn’t have wanted a ceremony.”
A VFW funeral ceremony is different from the one done by the Honor Guard. The VFW ceremony is typically done at the funeral home, while the Honor Guard conducts their service outside at the grave site.
McMillen urged families of military veterans to tell the funeral home to schedule a funeral ceremony.
“Ask! Tell the funeral home they want a veteran’s service. Call us, we’ll be there!”