U.S. Navy veteran gone but not 'forgotten'
The (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun Herald/MCT
BILOXI, Miss. -- More than 100 military men and women and civilians gathered Wednesday to honor "forgotten" U.S. Navy veteran David Berlew, who had no local family to attend his service at Biloxi National Cemetery.Bradford-O'Keefe funeral director Jason Moody said this was the largest turnout he has seen for a service of this kind.
Retired Navy veteran Gary Morris, chaplain at Berlew's service, said he was overwhelmed at how many attended."It's outstanding," he said. "It's wonderful to see the community coming out to honor someone they didn't even know."Berlew was born in 1959 in New Brunswick, N.J., and entered active duty with the Navy in Louisville, Ky., in 1984. He attended submarine school that year and then class "A" school in 1986. Berlew became qualified in submarines, was deployed in sea service and received the Battle "E" Award. He left military service while stationed in Pensacola in 1987.
His last duty assignment took place on the USS Casimir Pulaksi.Little is known about the rest of Berlew's life. According to his attorney, residence manager and brother who lives in another state, the veteran mostly kept to himself. He died Aug. 28 in his home in Bay Berry Park in Gulfport.
Berlew's brother Charles Berlew was contacted and notified of his death.
He said David Berlew lost contact with the family 35 years ago with the exception of his mother, whom he was close to until she died in January 2011.
"Growing up, he had a nice personality, was very outgoing and had a lot of friends," Charles Berlew said of his brother. "To my knowledge he was never married and never had children."
Lorraine Franco, manager of the RV park where Berlew lived, said he would come into the office to check his mail and was "always polite and very nice."
Every branch of the military was represented at Berlew's service, funeral director Whitney Lang said. A few even came from out of state to honor the Navy man's life.
Art Rimback, a Navy veteran who grew up in New Jersey, came from Florida to attend the service. "I saw the headlines for this forgotten fellow veteran, and I just had to come," he said.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Senior Vice Cmdr. Marty Goodman said it was an honor and a privilege for service members to come. "I'm proud to be here," he said.
Kevin Myers, executive officer of the 403rd Operations Group at Keesler Air Force Base, attended on a volunteer basis.
"Without his service, I wouldn't be able to serve today," Myers said. "It's important for us to never forget the sacrifices they made for our country."
The Rev. Clifton Walker sang the national anthem for Berlew's service. Moody said Walker called out of the blue to come and sing, and they were grateful he did.
"I saw the stories on this man in the paper," Walker said. "I asked the Lord what I could do and the Holy Spirit led me to come sing for him."
Navy veteran Bill Paschall said, "A shipmate is a shipmate. I'm here to honor a shipmate whether I served with him or not."
The service included military honors and a presentation of colors.
In his sermon, Morris said, "We gather here today to let David Berlew know that he does not complete this final journey alone."
Those present responded, "No, our hero, you are not forgotten."
Distributed by MCT Information Services