Proudly Showing the Flag in Holly
A GREAT LAKES
Innovative Health - National Online Spring 2018
/// BY RANEY RUSSELL-MCAULEY
I never really thought about my parents dying.
They were in their early fifties and it seemed
like they had many years still ahead of them. So
I chose to remain blissfully unconcerned. Then,
unexpectedly, my dad was dead at 54 years
old. Unfortunately, he had no pre-planning or
preparations in place. I was only armed with
two pieces of information: My dad wished to
be cremated; and he was a Navy Veteran. In
my grief, I was clueless as to how to proceed.
ceremony was brief, with my maternal
grandparents saying a prayer and
some kind words about my father.
Following the service my dad received
full military honors, and this was truly a
sight to behold.
If you have never had the honor of
attending a military service, I can de-scribe
it as a precisely coordinated,
beautiful, demonstration for fallen com-rades.
Full military honors for veterans
include a 21-gun salute, the playing of
Taps, and an American Flag presented
to the family. The Director of Great
Lakes National Cemetery, Roy Luera,
states that there are about 30 veterans’
organizations each of whom volunteer
one day a month at the cemetery to
perform these honors. These organiza-tions
include the Veterans of Foreign
Wars (VFW) posts, the American Le-gion,
and Marine Corps League.
We were fortunate enough to have an
actual bugler play “Taps,” but this is
not always an option as there are few
buglers available. Most military services
will provide an electronic recording of
this haunting melancholy bugle call.
The playing of “Taps” is undoubtedly
My first stop was the Genesee County
Department of Veterans Services on
Beach Street, in Flint. I spoke to a
representative there and she was very
helpful. She went over all of the services
my dad was eligible for as a Navy
veteran, and put me in direct contact
with the Great Lakes National Cemetery,
who explained that all the forms I
needed were located on their website.
I submitted an eligibility worksheet
and my father’s DD214 to the National
Cemetery Scheduling Office and called
them for more information. After they
reviewed my paperwork, it was just
a matter for me to schedule Dad’s
service. I chose a day a few weeks
out so I had time to let our loved ones
know of the service.
My dad passed away in April, 2012
and his service was held on a sunny
Wednesday in May. The cemetery has
two shelters in which funeral services
are held. They are wonderful open-air
venues with bench seating. A clergy
member may conduct the service
and offer a eulogy; or friends and
families can simply speak kind words
about the deceased loved one. Our
the best part of a military funeral. It
is played by the military at burial and
memorial services, to accompany the
lowering of the flag, and to signal the
“lights out” command at day’s end.
Luera encourages veterans’ spouses
to be buried at Great Lakes, also.
He confirms that this service is most
underutilized at his cemetery. “Burial
in a national cemetery is open to all
members of the armed forces who have
met a minimum active duty service
requirement, and were discharged under
conditions other than dishonorable,”
he said. “A veteran’s spouse, widow
or widower, minor dependent children,
and under certain conditions, unmarried
adult children with disabilities may also
be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses
and children may be buried even if they
predecease the veteran.” Spouses of
veterans are entitled to burial at any
national cemetery, but do not receive
After the service, after the last prayer
had been spoken and the last bugle
note played, it was just me with my dad
again. I looked around at all the beauty
surrounding us, and thought about his
life and our times together. I felt so
proud of his service to our country and
proud of myself too, for finding this
perfect place for him to rest.
Great Lakes National Cemetery
4200 Belford Road
Holly, MI 48442
Office Hours: Mon.-Fri.
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed federal holidays.
Visitation Hours: Sunrise to Sunset.