Volunteers to attend every vet funeral


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Cape Canaveral Ladies, back row from left, Lacey Robbins, Diane Baxter, Shirley Jaffe and Debbie Colangelo and Debra Gray, front row from left, chairman Cozette Merritt and Ruth Oblack say they will attend every funeral for veterans buried at Cape Canaveral National Cemetary in Mims.

SENIOR LIFE George White

The Cape Canaveral Ladies, starting this month, will serve as silent witness for each and every veteran buried at the new 318-acre Cape Canaveral National Cemetery in Mims.

Patterned after the Arlington Ladies at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., the newly-formed, non-profit volunteer program vows to have a representative at every funeral with its members committing in advance. 

The Arlington Ladies were a group of military wives and female veterans at Arlington, whose service began in 1948 with the wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg.

Cape Canaveral Ladies chairman Cozette Merritt led the organizational meeting held in late April at the Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island. Members were in uniform.

“What you all are doing shows that people care and are reaching out to veterans,’’ said Donn Weaver, chairman of the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center expansion committee.

Weaver’s son was lost in battle in Afghanistan and was buried at Arlington.

“That ceremony was made easier by three ladies from the Arlington Ladies. Your mentality to be part of that process is crucial to the success of the (Mims) cemetery,’’ he said.

He invited the group to meet at the center from now on, no charge. “You’ll always be welcome here,’’ he said.

Not your typical volunteer duty, these volunteers are there to simply attend every service, “not to intrude but to stand as a silent witness and give honor to the veteran and condolences to their families,’’ according to the group’s website.

Merritt was so impressed with seeing the Arlington Ladies in action in the background, she helped form the local group in January 2015 for the Space Coast veterans.

A total of 44 have signed up for the Cape Canaveral Ladies, but more are needed because some days several veterans will be laid to rest.

“It is an honor to be a part of these ceremonies that pay tribute to the everyday heroes that make up our armed forces. The volunteers give back a little to those who have given so much for our great country,’’ according to the group’s website.

Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. 

Membership in the Cape Canaveral Ladies is open to all women who have a sincere desire to pay final tribute to veterans.

For more information, call 321-452-7200 or go to Capecanaveralladies.org.