WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — There was a different kind of funeral service in Wilmington today, as a funeral home held a memorial for three veterans unclaimed by their families for various reasons.
Wilmington Funeral & Cremation felt like these men should be honored. For the first time, the mortuary held a service to pay tribute to three fallen heroes who may have otherwise been forgotten.
“It just felt like we needed to do something,” Wilmington Funeral & Cremation founder Doug Bevell said.
Bevell coordinated a memorial service for Marine Keith Hudson Larabee, Army veteran Neil Charles Allen and Kwasi Rashidi Machupa of the Navy.
Wednesday, retired Navy chaplin Steve Hall led a service commemorating the lives of these fallen heroes.
“There’s an unspoken, I guess, an unspoken bond between all military members,” Hall said.
Although the chapel was practically empty, there was one person there for whom the service was especially meaningful.
“It’s my dad. That’s my dad,” Paulette Pace said.
Pace made the trip to Wilmington from Michigan. She drove all night to say her final goodbye to her father Machupa.
“There was no one else to be here for him, and I figure that is my job,” Pace said.
While Pace honored her father, she took time to remember a favorite childhood memory of him and the cowgirl tattoo on his arm.
“He would flex his muscles and make her move, so I always wanted a tattoo,” Pace said. “He didn’t go with me to get my first tattoo, but I got a tattoo.”
As tears turned into smiles, Pace sat between two empty chairs with American flags presented to the absent families of Allen and Larabee. She could only guess why they were not there.
“The families, if they are still around, they’ve already accepted that their person is gone, and maybe it would be a little too much for them to go over it again,” Pace said.
Bevell says he hopes to make this an annual event.
Tomorrow the veterans will be buried at Coastal Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville.