When a Navy veteran passed away on December 12, not much was known about his life. What was known about him was his name was Jerry Wayne Pino, he was 70-years-old, he was a veteran and he died in Long Beach, Mississippi.
Pino was born in Baton Rouge Louisiana and he joined the Navy in New Orleans and served in Vietnam. Sadly, Pino died alone with no friends or family, and his body laid unclaimed for several weeks at Riemann Family Funeral Homes.
The funeral workers were not sure what to do and grew concerned as the days passed. “No one stepped forward,” funeral home worker Cathy Warden told me. “He just didn’t have any family.”
That could have been the end of this sad story, but thankfully it was not. Cathy Warden and her colleague Eva Boomer decided to get together and send this veteran off properly. “Something had to be done with respect,” Warden said. “We had to give him what he deserved. Nobody should go alone.”
As it turns out Bloomer is a veteran as well and wondered if some local teenagers would be interested in being pallbearers. It was a long shot since it was Christmas break and many people were out of town celebrating the holidays.
Warden called her teenage son Bryce and asked if he would like to be a pallbearer. Bryce agreed and in turn called some of his friends and within a matter of moments six young men had volunteered to serve at a stranger’s funeral.
“It was the right thing to do,” 17-year-old Bailey Griffin told me. “He served our country. He fought for our rights. For him to be buried with nobody there was just sad. I told myself I was going to do it and I did it.”
On Tuesday morning the sun was shining when Petty Officer Third Class Jerry Pino was laid to rest. The man who died with no one around him was honored by strangers who proved to the rest of those in this small community that the youth do care about our veterans.
Maybe there is hope for our country yet.