Around September 7, 2020, I was tasked by my brother, who is the executor of my father’s remains, to retrieve and coordinate with Highland Memorial Park Cemetery in Appleton, Wisconsin, the information needed to bury our father 21 years after his death.
My father’s story is the testament of what a service officer must go through when the executor won’t let go.
The tug-of-war experience between caretaker and family led to the dishonor of Legionnaire requests for Post Everlasting burial protocol.
Today we honor the dishonor of an Air Force veteran, who is our guest of honor at Post 38 American Legion of Appleton, Wisconsin, where my father entered service.
On the last month before the new millennium, Airman Davis E. Burt passed away at his home. His remains sit up North on the mantle with his oldest son arguing with his service officer brother playing games with Burt’s burial.
None the less, the service officer leads the mission seeking answers regarding protocols for burial. There was one item the cemetery left out that caused the feud. The cemetery caretaker stated he must receive and bury the remains to place a VA marker headstone.
The Outagamie County Service Officer stated, “As long as Highland will agree to place the marker, there is no need for burying the remains.”
Gerald Reger, cemetery director, made clear the VA won’t place the marker without the burial of the remains. Both parties used passive aggressive communication leaving unfinished business on the table.
Today, we are here to finish my last order of business as a past county service officer.
On Monday July 25, 2023, 24 years after Burt’s passing, the executor decided to pull up stakes and bury the Air Force veteran’s remains, who still needed a firing squad sendoff due to Burt’s funeral taking place in the beginning of January scheduled for a later date.
Today, we rejoice. We are sending a father and fellow veteran to the banquet hall at Post Everlasting and paying Burt’s respects. The service officer experience must be discussed so that we may learn from our guest of honor’s mishap.
From the beginning to the end of the three-year journey, I have witnessed many desperate attempts by Burt’s family to obstruct his rites of passage into Post Everlasting, so much that the executor and service officer have cut ties and want nothing to do with burying our guest with military honors.
Graciously, the American Legion will honor every new member into Post Everlasting and am thankful for those who put the event together. We are perpetuating and inculcating Americanism by standing up to those who believe our rites and practices are no longer of value.
The most important person is the person we honor at each Post Everlasting memorial salute. Today, Burt finally rests. Aside from the behavior of Burt’s executor, his two Legionnaire sons honor his right to finish his burial ceremony demonstrating how Legionnaires stay the course for veterans and their families they are tasked to serve.
Post Everlasting is a legacy provided to those who serve and receive an honorable discharge, which is a privilege to servicemembers and veterans who pass and respectfully deserve. Honor is the vow of the fourth commandment.
From the moment of being tasked to the phone call to arrange a firing squad, what I witnessed regarding Burt’s burial affairs was his executor’s family feud dishonor, along with understanding survivor’s guilt and his hostage taking of family members who withheld the deceased veteran’s remains from receiving Post Everlasting honors rites of passage.
Those who do not serve simply do not understand. We guide and stay the course.
We must learn from those who prejudice our traditions. Through their ineptness, we can assure all who serve have an advocate and will go to the furthest lengths under their watch.
The role of the service officer is managing grief. Passion is the tenacity to finish the job no matter what lengths or what obstacles may surface.
The service officer is the sentinel of the Post making sure those who are unsure are empowered by our knowledge.