Vet at casket5.jpg

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press

A member of a veterans biker group touches the casket of World War II Navy veteran Herman White following funeral services in Perry on Wednesday.

PERRY, Okla. — Tradition dictates black attire at a funeral. But at Herman Augusta White’s funeral, red, white and blue dominated.

And that felt completely appropriate when saying goodbye to a man who was part of what has become known as “The Greatest Generation,” who left home and family to fight with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific campaign during World War II.

About 1,000 strangers showed up at Grace Hill Cemetery on Wednesday to honor the 97-year-old Perry resident, who had no immediate relatives left when he died on Aug. 11.

Evelyn, his wife of 57 years, died in 1998, followed by their son Mickey, who died from cancer in 1999 at age 47.

White was left to spend his final 20 years alone.

So on his passing, Brown-Duggan funeral home of Perry volunteered to give him the memorial service with military honors that manager Rebecca Rains thought he deserved. And the staff asked the public to come take the place of White’s missing family.

About 1,000 people answered the call.

Some people drove for hours and crossed state lines to attend.

Veterans organizations from across Oklahoma turned out to memorialize a brother in arms.

Rows of Naval personnel in their crisp Whites stood at attention to honor a fellow sailor.

And the American flag flew proud and bold everywhere you looked.

Daryl and Micah Davis saw White’s story and were inspired to drive from Deer Creek to be there for a man they had never met.

“We both had grandfathers who were in World War II ... We just thought, we can’t imagine (a member of) our family not have family come to their funerals when they pass away,” Micah Davis said.

George Hanna left his home near Leavenworth, Kansas, at 5 a.m. to be at White’s service.

“More and more people are starting to understand the significance of that generation and there are fewer and fewer of them left,” he said. “It’s imperative that we respect that generation and show our respect by coming to events like this”

White’s obituary was spare on personal details. It described him as a private man, who lived a quiet life but enjoyed spending time playing dominos at the Perry Senior Citizens Center and drinking coffee at his local hang-out, Mr. C’s convenience store.

The people who gathered to memorialize Herman may not have known much about him, but they knew it was important to acknowledge the sacrifices he made in service to his country and to mark the passing of a member our our human family.

“Since the beginning of time, it has been part of the human condition that we stop and acknowledge the death of someone,” one speaker said. “To give honor to a life lived for God and for country. To establish the significance and unique aspects of a life lived. And to show the world that the veterans of our country matter, yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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