HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Many of us probably have first-hand experience with a military honors funeral and burial.
But because of the coronavirus crisis, those patriotic, graveside gatherings are on hold. Anyone who’s been to a military burial can quickly recall its imagery: a uniformed honor guard salute, a three-volley gun salute, and a lone bugler playing Taps. Those military honors may have been suspended today for a World War II veteran, but definitely not the respect.
As a hearse carrying the body of 98-year-old Dalton Drake left Snowdon Funeral Home in the Back Mountain, you might assume based on the crowd lining the streets that the Navy veteran was well-known in this community.
“I never, never knew him,” Plymouth USMC Veteran Don Shymansky said.
It’s the same story for hundreds of others who lined portions the nearly 11 mile procession route from Kingston Township to Hanover Township for the Ohio native’s burial. But once word spread the late veteran would be deprived a typical military funeral because of the pandemic, people like Shymansky answered the call.
“So that’s why I’m here. I’m just another veteran honoring a fellow veteran. That’s all,” Shymansky said.
And it wasn’t just veterans paying a patriotic tribute. Dozens and dozens of people of all ages held flags, signs, and demonstrated gratitude for Mr. Drake’s service.
“I figured showing up, it’s the least everyone here can do. You know, we have a debt to these guys that we can’t repay and you know the least we can do is show up and give him a good sendoff,” Michael Mazula of Kingston Township said.
There is no denying that is exactly what Mr. Drake received from families and first responders along Route 309 to South Main Street and everywhere in between. Two pilots even did a flyover in tribute.
While all of this respect on display is for another lost defender from the greatest generation, it’s also a reflection of those who filled these streets: people who appreciate all of the sacrifices for our freedoms especially now as we live in such uncertain times.
“It’s sad. It’s sad and at the same time as an American, I feel like we’re doing our patriotism,” Gary Lewis of Dallas said.
Mr. Drake lived and died in the Midwest. But his family chose the Wyoming Valley where his surviving widow is originally from for his final resting place.