By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
The subject is not always a pleasant one, but the response and interest were overwhelming at a Veterans Info Expo last week. Sponsored by the American Ideals Foundation, a local nonprofit, the Expo featured national and local speakers, support vendors, and about 170 veterans, loaded with questions about military veterans’ burial and cemetery benefits.
“There is an extreme thirst for information about veterans’ burial benefits, the proper protocol for the funeral, and how to keep the deceased veteran’s memory alive through special ceremonies,” said Robert Moffa of Ruskin-Sun City Center. Moffa is the founder and COO of the sponsoring AIF. Along with Marcie Moffa, the AIF educational director, and AIF President Mary Moffa, the AIF has been planning this event for several months. They brought in two well informed officials from Washington D.C., who answered many questions from the veterans attending the event, held at the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce building.
A varied and upbeat program began with the opening prayer by Bishop Jackie McGowan. A special rendition of America, played over the audio system by composer/pianist Pasqual Spino, followed the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Pat Raimondo.
One of the speakers was Charles “Hutch” Hutchison, a former Marine sergeant, who is now a resident of Sun City Center. Hutchison was previously a caretaker supervisor at the Ft. Logan National Cemetery in Denver, as well as a National Cemetery training instructor with the National Cemetery Administration. Hutchison emphasized, “Don’t wait until the veteran in your family dies…don’t wait until the final day.” He said to ask questions and get prepared now. The veterans, families and spouses were told to coordinate and select in advance, in case the veteran dies in bed overnight, who is to be contacted, who will supply the flowers, who will arrange for the funeral home, casket and showing and which cemetery will be used; make sure the will is in order; prepare the obituary; obtain help from a local veterans’ organization if you want a military-style funeral; have the financial, insurance and bank accounts in order, and “so many more details to arrange before the veteran passes.”
Also in attendance and available for information were Larry Provost and Tim Nosal, both of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Cemetery Administration in Washington.
They talked about the responsibility of the federal government for the deceased veteran, regarding the cemetery, the headstone, and the burial itself.
The sponsoring American Ideals Foundation was created in the early 1960s after the late President Kennedy told pianist/composer Robert Moffa, ‘You are to be congratulated for your contribution to preserve the American ideals worldwide through your music.” So inspired and motivated, Moffa established the AIF, which, over the years, diversified in order to help and serve more people, communities and countries. Those AIF divisions and benefactors include education, children, artists, military heroes, veterans, legacy, medical arts, and humanitarian assistance.
Visit www.FoundationofAmericanIdeals.org, email American.firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 813-416-8456 for more information.