Petty Officer 3rd Class James Miske did not have any family at his funeral on June 14, but you would not have known that from the scene at Fort Jackson National Cemetery. Over 150 motorcyclists and an estimated 500 people from all over the country showed up for the service to honor the Vietnam War veteran’s life.
The funeral was arranged as part of the Homeless Veterans Burial Program, a service that started in South Carolina in July 2018. The funeral service was announced and quickly spread throughout social media, including a tweet from CNN’s Jake Tapper, in hopes of getting fellow veterans to turn out and give Miske the burial he deserved. However, even William Lynch, program coordinator of the Homeless Veterans Burial Program, was surprised to see the largest turnout in the program’s history.
“When you start waking up having missed phone calls from California and all over the country, with people asking how do we get there and when’s the service, it is overwhelming and very surprising, but we hope in the future that every veteran that we serve is able to receive this sort of outreach from our country,” Lynch said.
In the year since the Homeless Veterans Burial Program began in South Carolina, six homeless or unclaimed veterans have been buried, including three in the last month. Veterans and non-veterans from across the country gathered at Fort Jackson to show support for Miske, including 20-year-old Jack Lansford who came with his family from Colorado. It was Lansford’s first time at a military funeral and he says it was special.
“It was touching. The 21-gun salute, I’ve seen this on movies and TV, but to see it in person is really touching. All the Vietnam veterans and active military together is really touching. Definitely haven’t seen this many veterans and active servicemen together before. It’s really touching,” Lansford said.
Some veterans spoke of the need to come to Fort Jackson to honor a Vietnam War veteran because of the mistreatment those veterans faced in the years following the war. Lynch said that was one of the reasons the burial program started and he’s glad to give veterans the full military burial they deserve.
“It’s something I wish we didn’t have to do. Unfortunately, I feel like veterans – they come back from serving, there are so many things they go through. Really, I’m just glad that we’re here and able to do it,” Lynch said.
According to military records, Miske was born in Chicago in 1944 and was living in Columbia at the time of his death. He served in the Navy from 1965-1967 before joining the Naval Reserves and earning a National Defense Service Medal and a Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star. Miske was 75.