(PERRY, Okla.) — The 97-year-old World War II veteran died on August 11 in Perry, Oklahoma. White was due all of the full military honors bestowed on veterans upon their death.
There was just one problem: The decedent had no surviving kin to make the arrangements. White’s wife and son preceded him in death and he had no other known relatives. It looked like his remains would end up in a Potter’s field, with no one to remember him or his service to the nation.
That’s when Rebecca Raines stepped up.
Raines is the funeral director of the Brown-Duggar funeral home in Perry. When she learned that White had no family to arrange his funeral service, she took action.
“I found out he only had friends and no immediate family,” said Raines after the funeral home picked up White’s remains from an area hospital. Along with his body, Raines was also given the veteran’s military paperwork, including his DD Form 214 discharge papers.
Through his military history, Raines discovered how much being in the Navy meant to White. He had achieved the rank of Seaman Second Class V-6 USNR-SV. He received the Victory Medal as well as the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.
She also found out that he had purchased a burial plot next to his wife and son, but there was no family or funds to bury him there.
She said she knew of an organization that would provide the burial for free — but that would mean White’s final resting place would be miles from where his wife and son are buried.
Raines said that she and a staffer at the funeral home decided to buy a casket for White and arrange to have him buried next to his family. They also worked on setting up a memorial service, if only a small one. They ended up with a bagpiper to play “Amazing Grace” and military representatives to present the flag.
Still, Raines did not think that was a significant enough tribute for the veteran. “It was the two of us, the bagpiper, and the military,” she said. So both she and her staffer started making calls to see what other tributes they could arrange.
They ended up connecting with a Navy recruiter who “fell in love” with White’s story, according to Raines, and shared it on her Facebook page. Soon, offers to say eulogies, play songs, and attend White’s service were bombarding the funeral home.
Raines was now able to plan a fitting funeral service with full military honors. She says she even received letters from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and President Donald Trump thanking White for his service. Both letters will be read at the funeral on September 4.
About the letter from the president, Raines said, “I suppose I will just stick [it] in his file here at the funeral home and if any family shows up they can have it. I don’t have anyone to give it to. Maybe I can donate it to a historical society. I have in the file a letter from Harry Truman thanking [White] for his efforts in the war.”
Raines says she never knew or met White when he was alive. But she has her reasons for wanting to give him a proper send-off.
“Veterans mean a lot to me,” she said. “World War II means a lot to me. Anyone who passes away means a lot to me. This is my passion. I hated the thought of Mr. White not getting military honor.”
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