Indigent veterans get color guard at burials
Veterans who die in poverty in Mohave County are now getting the respect that they may not have been accorded during their last years alive.
Indigent vets get a color guard salute from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3516 in Kingman, said Stephen Golding, a public fiduciary accountant for the Mohave County Finance Department.
"They go to the cemeteries (and) fire three shots in the air," Golding said.
"It is a salute to the (dead) veteran."
Golding, a Gulf War veteran and member of the VFW post, said he helped to revive the color guard ceremony for indigent vets in September to honor veterans for serving their country.
He said veterans groups performed the color guard salute in the past.
The color guard performed at the Chloride cemetery for a Vietnam veteran who died recently in Bullhead City and has three more funerals planned for the next few weeks, Golding said.
Of the 53 indigents buried so far this year by the county, 11 were veterans, Golding said.
He said the color guard performs the ceremony at the expense of its members because of a sense of duty.
"They do it because they are patriotic American people," Golding said.
"They want to honor the veterans who have died.
I think it is sinful for veterans to be buried without someone honoring their death and their service to the country."
The six-member color guard, Golding and two people from the funeral home are the only people who attended the ceremony in Chloride, said Al Cierzan, a color guard member who lives in Kingman.
"We helped give him a military-type sendoff, just like we do anybody else," Cierzan said.
"As far as I am concerned, if we have a color guard, we are more or less obligated to give them a farewell in a military fashion because they were part of the military.
They served their country."
The indigent veterans and other indigents do not receive funeral services because services would amount to additional costs for the county, according to Golding.
Unlike civilian indigents, veterans are buried outside the county-owned section of the Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman, and are buried alongside the graves of other vets at other cemeteries when possible.
Ray Aldridge, who manages the Mountain View Cemetery with his wife, Mary, said he was unaware of the color guard program for indigent vets.
"We are open to it," he said.
"We've got to know beforehand.
We would have to do a different setup than we normally do for the indigent burial."
The county currently provides the indigent burial program for families whose loved ones died in this county and lack the funds to pay for cremation or burial through local funeral homes, a fact sheet stated.
A deceased individual meets the federal requirements for being an indigent if he or she earned no more than $13,290 a year.
Under the program, the county pays $500 for cremation and $600 for burial, plus an additional $260 for opening and closing the grave along with additional transportation charges, the fact sheet stated.
Only the spouse, adult children or parents (if the deceased person is a minor) will be held responsible for repaying the amount.
However, the Department of Veterans Affairs may pay for part of the burial costs for deceased veterans.