Metro-East News

Roger That: 1,200 people honor Vietnam Vet who died alone in Fort Wayne, Indiana

In a closed casket ceremony, nearly 1,200 strangers packed into a Fort Wayne, Indiana, funeral home to honor a man they never knew, according to the website Task and Purpose.

James Douglas Beavers, a 74-year-old Vietnam War-era veteran whose remains were unclaimed, received full military honors during his funeral Dec. 17. Beavers died Nov. 23 and went unnoticed until a neighbor found him nearly five days later.

The local coroner’s office ran a notice in the local newspapers and on social media, hoping family or friends would come forward to claim the former Army specialist.

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Some veterans are angry that the U.S. Air Force says it can no longer provide the gun salute — an honor earned by everyone who has served our country– during funeral services, according to PopularMilitary.com.

When a military service member is laid to rest, he or she is entitled to the full honor guard ceremony which includes folding of the U.S. flag, the traditional tune of Taps, and a gun salute.

While other branches of the military will continue this tradition, Air Force officials say lack of funding and personnel are forcing them to discontinue the honor of a gun salute. The gun salute consists of seven service members firing three volleys.

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Air Force Academy football players have a right to pray publicly before games, an academy athletic department review has found, according to an Air Force Times story.

“The United States Air Force Academy places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religion or to observe no religion at all,” academy officials said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group that opposes proselytizing in the military, complained about academy football players praying in the end zone after its Nov. 28 game against the University of New Mexico. The Falcons also prayed in the end zone before their Dec. 5 game against San Diego State University despite the complaint.

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Military Times is reporting that President Barack Obama is marking five years since he signed legislation repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Obama said his greatest responsibility as commander in chief is to keep Americans safe. And he said the national defense requires the talents of every American, regardless of sexual orientation. He said openly gay and bisexual men and women in uniform are making the military a stronger organization.

The Pentagon is studying whether to lift a longstanding prohibition on allowing openly transgender people to serve in the military.

Obama signed bipartisan legislation repealing the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell" in December 2010.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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