Six Mississippi high schoolers forfeited a morning of their holiday vacation to give a proper send off to a recently-deceased Navy veteran they had never met before.
When Jerry Wayne Pino died alone at age 70, the Vietnam veteran’s funeral arrangement were pre-made with one glaring oversight- there were no pallbearers to carry his casket to his grave at the Biloxi National Cemetery.
“He was an unclaimed veteran,” said Cathy Warden of Riemann Family Funeral Homes, the institution that handled Pino’s services. “Eva Boomer, who also works at Riemann’s, is a veteran, too. She asked me, ‘Do you think we could get (Warden’s son) Bryce and some upperclassmen to come out?’ ”
While Bryce was already scheduled to go out of town, he quickly rounded up six volunteers from his football team -JT Tripp, Bailey Griffin, Joseph Ebberman, Jake Strong, Kenny McNutt and James Kneiss- who all willingly agreed to serve as pallbearers.
“Bryce sent the text and asked them to wear khaki pants, shirts and ties. ‘Let’s do this!’ he told his classmates. Almost immediately, they said yes,” Warden said of the boys, who attend Long Beach High School.
A Baton Rouge man by birth, Pino had enlisted in the Navy in 1970, serving in the Vietnam War and leaving a Petty Officer Third Class.
JT Tripp’s mother was sure to make a (good) example of him on social media.
“This morning, JT and fellow Bearcats will be pallbearers at a veteran’s funeral service,” Stacie Tripp wrote. “Proud mom when he told me that no one should be buried without people who care present, especially a veteran. Exposure to patriotism and respect comes from the home, schools and community. Proud of all these boys!”
When the US Navy provided honor guards for the ceremony, the guards folded Pino’s American Flag and presented it to funeral director Jim Hudson. In a show of appreciation, he presented it to the six boys, who decided to have it placed in their locker room.
According to the SunHerald, Warden said that a case and plaque will be made for the flag, to commemorate Pino’s service and the selflessness of the six Long Beach Bearcats who took him on his final walk.
“It doesn’t cost anything to take some time to do something like this,” Warden said. “If our young people can figure this out, our country is going in the right direction.”
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