In Alaska, a Salvation Army officer attends unaccompanied funerals for veterans

In Alaska, a Salvation Army officer attends unaccompanied funerals for veterans

Soon after arriving in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2017, Salvation Army Anchorage Social Service Director Captain Denice Delgado started regularly attending the funerals of unaccompanied veterans at the nearby Fort Richardson National Cemetery. These are monthly services for veterans who have died and don’t have family members to attend their funerals.

“I just thought here’s our service members who have fought for our country and…they still should be given that respect to have someone at their service who appreciates what they’ve done,” Delgado said.

Delgado found out about the unaccompanied funerals at a local U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) meeting and didn’t hesitate to sign up for the opportunity to honor these veterans.

“They should be given that due respect,” Delgado said. “Everybody deserves to be remembered.”

Once a month, Delgado receives an email invitation to the service, which takes place on the last Wednesday of the month. Within the invitation is the name and rank of the service member, how long they served and brief information about their service. She is present at each service.

“I’m called…[as a Salvation Army officer, to] be a friend to the friendless, and make sure that I’ve done my all to give honor and respect to those around me and continue to grow the kingdom of God,” Delgado said.

At the funeral services, Delgado says the moment that most resonates with her is the 21-gun salute during each ceremony.

“Just seeing the flag being folded when the gunshots are going off, and them walking the folded flag to the director of the National Cemetery because there’s nobody else [is so impactful],” Delgado said. “I just love being a part of it.”

And Delgado is proud to represent The Salvation Army and showcase its ministry of presence to the military community.

“It’s the power of presence [that] is profoundly louder than anything—any words that could be said or any action that could be done,” Delgado said.

Lt. Colonel Debbie Lum, who serves as The Salvation Army Western Territory Veteran Affairs Volunteer Service Secretary, emphasized the significance of the organization’s presence at these unaccompanied funerals.

“For us to be there is such an honor and a privilege to serve those who stand up for us for our country,” Lum said. “Even though the veterans may not have known us and may not have had a connection with The Salvation Army, what Captain Delgado is doing is such an honor and a respect to the veteran. It’s a wonderful ministry.”

Lum hopes that corps across the West will begin to set up ministries like this.

“Every corps—if there’s a VA that’s asking for it—they should be able to offer [this ministry],” Lum said.

Delgado said that even a small commitment of time to this type of ministry can make a huge difference.

“We, as officers, can get caught up in the busyness…It literally is 30 minutes out of your day once a month,” Delgado said. “It’s about looking around and seeing what impact you can make in somebody’s life.”

Do Good: 

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  • Learn how The Salvation Army partners with The Home Depot Foundation to serve U.S. veterans.
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Vivian Gatica Lopez

Vivian Gatica Lopez is a writer based in Colorado Springs, CO. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and a passion for storytelling.