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Group plans to give more veterans a final salute
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
The Southeast Texas Veterans Service Group is dedicated to giving veterans a final salute. Last year, the group honored more than 300 veterans at their funerals. Saturday, the volunteers honored four. The service group has a new program coming up that will help honor even more.
Veterans gave a seven gun salute, honoring former Marine Noe Cardenas at his funeral Saturday. His nephew, Joseph Ramon, says Cardenas was proud to be a veteran.
"Oh yes, as a matter a fact, my uncle, every opportunity he had he would put on his uniform. So, even today, he's still slamming, he fits real well in his uniform," said Ramon.
Having these veterans honor Cardenas today means a lot.
"In the military we live by some core values, and one of them is selfless service," said Ramon, who is retired from the Army. "And to have folks come out here and honor him, it's a Saturday afternoon, they could have been spending time with their families. So, I know it would mean the world to him, it meant the world to me and his family."
The Southeast Texas Veterans Service Group is all volunteer.
"And I think that everyone who has served in the military and was discharged honorably should and ought to have a military funeral," said veteran and service group member Howard Rogers.
"Hits you right here," said veteran and service member C.P. Williams, pointing to his heart, "because a lot of times you can't help but shed a tear when you're doing this. It just touches you, it's a wonderful feeling."
"I lost some men in Vietnam, and I think that because they couldn't come back, that I, I do this in memory of them," said Rogers. "Every time I do a funeral."
The group is starting a new program where they'll accept donations of torn, worn, or old flags that are no longer fit to fly. They will retire these flags by cremating them with veterans.
"Businesses, they got a tattered flag, they'll call a number and we'll go pick it up," said Williams.
"The veterans that are being cremated, they will drape the flag over the cremation and they'll be cremated with the flag," said Rogers. "So I think that's a great honor."
The former servicemen and women volunteering in this group want to make sure every veteran receives a final salute, and their families know how appreciated their loved ones are.
"For these vets to come out here and take their own personal time to do this," said Ramon, "what a great honor to my uncle and his family. We'll never forget that."
The Veterans Service Group will start accepting flags Memorial Day Weekend. The group is a non-profit organization and relies on donations to buy its uniforms and upkeep its rifles. They attend veterans' services for free.