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  • Sunday, May 28, 2017

    NY Times Puts Light on Legionnaires Providing Dignified Burials for Homeless Vets

    ‘A dignified end to New York’s forgotten veterans.’

    That was the headline for a May 23rd feature story in the New York Times about homeless veterans who are saved from pauper’s graves, thanks to Legionnaires like Queens County Adjutant Paul J. Schottenhamel.

    Paul Schottenhamel

    Paul Schottenhamel

    “I am proud to be a small part in providing a proper burial for unclaimed veterans,” Schottenhamel noted after the article appeared. “Many people come together to make it happen. I want to especially thank Past County Commander Michael Honan, Chaplain John B. Fiore and my fellow American Legionnaires from Queens County; Director James Sturges of the George Werst Funeral Home in Glendale; Ines Adan at the Department of Veteran Services of the City of New York; Vietnam Veterans Chapter 32, and the Patriot Guard Riders for all their help.”

    The Times article noted: “He (Schottenhamel) and other volunteers help schedule burials and organize viewings by engaging funeral home owners to provide services for little or no fee. They recruit groups of veterans to attend because mourners who knew the deceased almost never come.”

    The article, by Corey Kilgannon, described the case of three unclaimed veterans who were brought to George Werst Funeral Home. He wrote: “Two dozen military veterans filed into the funeral home, which has held about 100 free services for unclaimed veterans and has donated coffins and transported bodies to Calverton (National Cemetery).”

    “Mr. Schottenhamel announced that the three veterans had been ‘called to the high command’. With no details known about their lives, the service was brief.”

    “We know nothing more about these men, but we don’t need to know anything more than that they honorably served their country,” the article quoted Schottenhamel, who served in Vietnam and has helped arrange burials for 52 veterans.

    The article went into the history of saving indigent vets from pauper’s graves, and concludes with a scene at the cemetery, after hearses arrived escorted by Patriot Guard Riders.

    “Pete Jepson, one of the Patriot Guard Riders, hopped off his Harley-Davidson and directed his riders to form a ceremonial walkway through which the coffins were guided to an alcove in a serene stand of pines.

    “Rifle shots sounded out and a bugler played taps. An honor guard — active service members in dress uniforms — conducted the ritual folding of the American flags taken off the coffins.

    “ ‘These men are unsung heroes, but for whatever reason, they died alone,’ Mr. Jepson said. ‘And that’s why we’re here’.”

    See the full article here: