A Memorial Day Story: Military Honors for a World War II Vet

Like many members of the “Greatest Generation,” Richard Vredeveld was proud to be an Army veteran, but he didn’t make a big deal of it. As Brett and Kate McKay write in their Art of Manliness blog:

“Even if their exploits had been brave and heroic, the Greatest Generation rarely talked about the war, both because of the difficulty in remembering such carnage, but also from the sense that they had simply been fulfilling their duty, and thus had no reason to brag.”

In fact, the one concession Mr. Vredeveld made to his sense of duty was to request military honors at his funeral, and interment at a United States National Cemetery—Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan.

He had come upon the idea more than 30 years ago, and his family’s first reaction was to try and talk him out of it. After all, Fort Custer was at least 100 miles away from where anyone in the family was living. But Richard and his wife Marian took a drive there one day, saw how beautifully the grounds were maintained, felt the respect of the staff, learned how honorably the services were dispatched. His decision was made.

Meaningful and memorable

When Sergeant Richard Vredeveld died in 2009, he received the military honors he had earned more than 60 years earlier during the Great War. He received a three-volley rifle salute and Taps immediately following the funeral service, and then the family drove to Fort Custer, where a four-person honor guard escorted the casket, folded the flag, and expressed the appreciation of a grateful nation.

If you are interested in military honors for a veteran in your family, there is a lot of information available from various government websites. For example, Military Funeral Honors is a site sponsored by the Department of Defense. And Arlington National Cemetery has posted information about the types of ceremonies they perform.

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Karin Vredeveld May 25, 2011, 5:26 pm

    I’m so honored that my dad was part of the greatest generation. He willingly served his country without thought to reward or recognition. He also taught each of his four children the joy that serving others brings. Thanks, Dad!

    • Melanie Jongsma, Wordsmith May 25, 2011, 7:23 pm

      I love that photo of his Army platoon that’s shown in the picture at the top of this blog. You know it meant a lot to him—because he hung on to it all these years. But he also didn’t make a big deal of it—it was hanging out in his garage.

  • Amanda Cleary May 25, 2011, 9:34 pm

    Thanks for writing this, Melanie. I wish I had asked my grandfather many more questions about his service in the army during WWII. He was part of the Little Beaver Squadron, and his ship was sunk by the Japanese. Know I need to write about that someday…

  • Nancy Buis May 26, 2011, 7:44 pm

    My dad, John Geertsema, (author of The Geertsema Chronicles, of which Melanie was a big part of!) also had a military honors burial at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, IL last year. It was a decision he too made later in life. Even though my dad was an immigrant from the Netherlands, he was so proud to be an American and serve his country. The military honors burial service was such a blessing to me. It was so honoring to my dad and our family.

    And yes, our family is so grateful to have taken the time to record our heritage.

    • Melanie Jongsma, Wordsmith May 26, 2011, 9:52 pm

      Oh, Nancy, thank you for sharing that! I remember from your dad’s book how proud he was to serve in the United States Army—and he had so many photos and documents and stories related to his service, which really reproduced well in the book! I’m so glad he decided to accept military honors at his funeral. That is so fitting.


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