When Jerry Wayne Pino died on December 12 in Long Beach, Mississippi, no one knew much about him. He was a Navy veteran. He was 70. He was born in Baton Rouge. He served in Vietnam.
That was the extent of his biography. He had no family. No friends. He died so alone that his body lay unclaimed for several weeks at Riemann Family Funeral Homes.
Cathy Warden, a worker at the funeral home, worked with her colleague Eva Boomer to give the vet a respectful send-off.
“Something had to be done with respect,” Cathy told Fox. “We had to give him what he deserved. Nobody should go alone.”
Cathy called her teen son Bryce to help. Bryce then texted some of his friends. Six of them volunteered to be pallbearers.
“It was the right thing to do,” 17-year-old Bailey Griffin told Fox. “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.”
The teens wore khaki pants, ties and button-down shirts as they escorted the flag-draped coffin to the grave. The flag was then given to the boys, who are contemplating how to honor Pino with some kind of display at their school.
For Cathy, it was not just a respectful send-off for a vet, but an example of the ideals he fought for.
“Our community is teaching these boys from the heart how it should be: how to care,” she told Fox.