Teenagers can be pretty terrific.
A recent case in point: Six Long Beach, Mississippi, teens made sure a veteran who died alone was properly carried to his final resting place — on their young shoulders.
“He served our country. He fought for our rights. For him to be buried with nobody there was just sad.”
While other teens were relaxing, sleeping in, playing video games, or texting friends during school break, these six young men put on khakis, button-down collared shirts, and ties. All to pay tribute to the life and military service of 70-year-old Navy veteran Jerry Wayne Pino, whom none of them had ever met.
No one in town knew much about Pino.
“He was born in Baton Rouge and joined the Navy in New Orleans. He was a petty officer third class in Vietnam. That’s the extent of his biography,” noted Todd Starnes of Fox News in his column.
Pino passed from this world alone, with no family or friends at his side. He served his country in Vietnam and wanted to be buried at Biloxi National Cemetery, according to the Sun Herald. Pino had pre-arranged his service — but had no one to carry his remains or mourn his passing.
So Pino’s body lay unclaimed for several weeks at Riemann Family Funeral Homes.
“No one stepped forward,” funeral home employee Cathy Warden told Starnes. “He just didn’t have any family.”
Warden explained the situation to coworker Eva Boomer, and the two women decided this just would not do — a veteran who served this country lying unclaimed and unmourned.
“Something had to be done with respect,” Warden said. “We had to give him what he deserved.”
Coworker Boomer is also a veteran, and she wondered if some of the boys at Long Beach High School might be willing to serve as pallbearers for Pino. Warden called her teenage son, Bryce, who in turn texted some friends — and in minutes, six young men had volunteered to serve at a stranger’s funeral.
“It was the right thing to do,” 17-year-old Bailey Griffin told Starnes. “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.”
They buried Petty Officer Third Class Jerry Pino on a Tuesday last month. An honor guard stood at attention for this Navy man, along with six young men who appreciated him.
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“I went out there for the service and cried the whole way through,” Warden told Starnes. “This veteran had nobody standing there but these boys.”
Pino’s memory will be respected by a community of young people who benefit every day from his service and sacrifice.
The flag that draped Pino’s coffin was folded and solemnly presented to the six teens from Long Beach High School.
“It touched my heart,” Warden said.
“Proud mom when he told me that no one should be buried without people who care present, especially a veteran,” Stacie Tripp, mother to one of the teen pallbearers, wrote on Facebook.
Warden agreed. “Our community is teaching these boys from the heart how it should be — how to care,” she said to Starnes.
The flag that draped Pino’s coffin may go on display at the high school or may be kept inside the locker room, where four of the pallbearers — the Long Beach Bearcats — play football.
Either way, Pino’s memory will be respected by a community of young people who benefit every day from his service and sacrifice.