A Final Salute: Local group makes sure veterans have proper burials

Area group makes sure no veteran is buried alone

Even as rain fell on a chilly, late October morning, a small group gathered at Dayton National Cemetery as a Vietnam veteran, none of them knew and who died almost 30 years ago, was interred at his final resting place.

The Final Salute Society, a small group of dedicated volunteers who are committed to making sure no veteran in the region is buried alone, has been attending graveside services for veterans without friends or family in the area for several years.

“It’s not about the size of the group,” Elaine Herrick of Dayton said. “It’s about someone being there. Someone in our group will accept the flag on behalf of the country, we say a prayer, speak their name throughout the service and at the end, memory cards are handed out.

“We believe that an individual dies twice: they die the first time when they take their last breath and they die the second time the last time their name is spoken out loud,” Herrick said.

The Final Salute was founded by Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Metcalf and Herrick and includes representatives from the Ohio Blue Star Mothers, the Knights of Columbus, the Dayton National Cemetery Honor Squad and others.

On a recent Friday morning with rain falling, about 25 people gathered under a shelter to honor a man who died in the early 1990s.

U.S. Navy veteran Joseph Lamont Seab was cremated when he died and his remains were given to his nephew. However, his nephew passed away too, leaving Seab’s remains with his nephew’s wife, Cherise Mohammed, who didn’t know him. Mohammed took care of the remains but felt he deserved a more appropriate resting place.

“I just thought Joseph needed to be with family,” Mohammed said, noting that he didn’t have a wife or children. “I remembered that my husband told me that Joseph was a veteran and if I can’t get him with his natural family, then certainly his military family would receive him.”

Mohammed came into contact with the Dayton National Cemetery and she was excited when she learned about the Final Salute Society and the ceremony Seab would receive.

“I think it’s awesome that they have such a big heart and a love for their fellow veterans that they would take out their time to have a service for someone who doesn’t have anyone,” Mohammed said. “I was right, he does have a family — the military. They showed up for him.”

Seab received a full military service with about two dozen people there to pay their respects. He was prayed for, honored for his service and finally saluted.

“It’s really something that makes you feel like you’ve done something patriotic,” said Peter Synder, who helped perform the service.

He said the group has stood through harsh weather to ensure that no veteran is buried alone.

“It makes you feel like you’ve done something that honors somebody who otherwise wouldn’t have been,” he said.

Along with honoring individual veterans, the society is also working to clean, repair and restore veteran monuments in the region and is raising money for that work.

Herrick said the Final Salute Society started after they learned that the Dayton National Cemetery had about 40 to 50 unaccompanied funerals a year. The group works to make sure no veteran is forgotten and each ceremony is special.

“It’s a reflection of our community,” Herrick said. “We have a community that cares about our veterans. This is a veteran supporting community and a veteran welcoming community.”

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