We all wonder about it at some point in our lives: how many people will attend our funerals when the time comes and more importantly, who will they be? In the end, it isn’t about the numbers. You just wonder if you’ll make an impact during your time here. Dozens of community members and former students would show up to the funeral for a beloved teacher, but what about someone on the edge of society? A homeless veteran, for example? When World War II homeless veteran Serina Vine passed away, 4 people planned to attend her funeral. William Jones, a retired Marine employed at Quantico National Cemetery, invited Major Jaspen Boothe, 38, to help lay Vine down to rest. Although Boothe was a stranger to Vine, she felt like she had to do something. “In the military, we don’t serve alone, therefore we should not die alone,” she voiced in a powerful statement.Homeless veteran Serina Vine served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. In 1995, she was found on the streets of Washington D.C. showing signs of dementia. She spent the remainder of her life at the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Community Living Center and died at the age of 91. Only 4 people were going to attend her funeral. William Jones, a former Marine employed at Quantico National Cemetary, invited Major Jaspen Boothe to attend. She accepted the invitation in a big way. Boothe reached out to the community through Facebook and text messages, and over 200 people showed up.
It wasn’t about pity. According to TODAY, the Army major identified with the homeless vet. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina left her and her 9-year-old son homeless. At the time, she was nearing deployment to Iraq where she would be a postal platoon leader. A month later, she was diagnosed with adenoidal cancer. Today, Boothe is a disabled vet residing in Haymarket, Virginia. She works for the Army Reserve as a senior HR officer.
Boothe also runs Final Salute, a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide homeless female vets with safe and suitable housing.
During the ceremony, Jones recited Boothe’s touching words: “In the military, we don’t serve alone, therefore we should not die alone.”
“I was thinking my efforts would make maybe 20 to 30 people show up,” Boothe said in an interview with TODAY. “But when I arrived, there were hundreds of cars lined up.”
Jones conducted some research on the late Serina Vine. In 1954, she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. According to her caretakers, she spoke three languages, loved to dance, and attended church every Sunday. Rest in peace, Serina Vine.