For Hometown News
BREVARD COUNTY – Bruce Clark of Cocoa Beach, a U.S. Army Veteran who served in the Vietnam War, very likely died alone – but after learning of his death, residents teamed up to make sure he was not laid to rest alone.
According to an obituary, Mr. Clark passed away in July at age 76 with no known family members.
The staff of Ammen Family Cremation & Funeral Care in Melbourne, which hosted Mr. Clark’s funeral service July 31, had posted a notice of the service a couple of days earlier in a local newspaper.
From that point, a team of local volunteers stepped up to participate in the sendoff.
“Mr. Ammen chose to put a notice in the paper to see if we couldn’t find any family and friends, and then we got this overwhelming, amazing support from the community,” said Jennifer Adams, director’s assistant at Ammen.
Mr. Clark was an indigent veteran, Mrs. Adams explained. His funeral was one of several that Ammen has held for veterans who do not have the means to manage their own services in advance, or family members who can help with the process.
Each time Ammen holds a funeral of this nature, the veteran is “laid to rest with military honors and there’s always someone there with them,” said Mrs. Adams, who is married to an active duty service member.
“We take care of our military veterans with a lot of pride,” Mrs. Adams added, noting that many of the funeral home’s staff members come from military families. “It’s just something that close to our heart.”
Ammen also set up burial services at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery and requested a U.S. Army Honor Guard detail to provide full military honors at the graveside, Mrs. Adams noted.
Next, members of VFW Post 4643 pitched in to gather even more support for Mr. Clark's sendoff.
“Yesterday morning, one of my Auxiliary members contacted me about an obituary they saw in the paper,” said Jeanne Vogt, the commander of VFW Post 4643 in Satellite Beach, on July 30.
“I immediately began the journey of making sure that this Veteran, like so many others, would not be laid to rest alone,” added Ms. Vogt (pronounced “vote”), who is a retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. “No Veteran deserves to leave this world without a proper and honorable send off and thank you from a grateful nation.”
Ms. Vogt said she made many phone calls, emails and Facebook posts asking for volunteers.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey authorized a police escort for the funeral procession, Ms. Vogt noted.
And VFW Members, American Legion members and Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club members participated in the procession, as well as the services as a whole.
Ms. Vogt said the measures were meant not only pay respect to Mr. Clark as a fellow veteran, but also to raise awareness about kindness.
“It was an honor to be there for Mr. Clark, to pay my respects to him as a veteran and as a human being,” Ms. Vogt said. “To give him that final salute was both humbling and heartbreaking I think for everyone who was there.”
“To know this veteran left the world with no one by his side, no family or friends, I think touches all of our hearts; even more so after knowing he once wore the uniform of our country and fought for the freedom of all of us,” Ms. Vogt added.
“Bringing it to the attention of the media and general public was to remind everyone that simple acts of respect and kindness can go a long way,” Ms. Vogt continued. “Not everyone has family and friends, perhaps someone will see this article and think about being kinder to their neighbor that served while they are still alive or someone that just needs a friend.”
While participating in the sendoff, Ms. Vogt learned that Mr. Clark was estranged from his family and that his sister had died three days before his own passing, but he did not know.
“I learned that when he came home from Vietnam he had a very hard time,” Ms. Vogt added. “He could never fully return from the war.”