After Major Jaspen Boothe posted invitations to Serena Vine’s funeral everywhere she could think of, she didn’t expect over 200 people to attend. Before Boothe found out about Vine’s funeral, only 4 people were planning on attending. “I was thinking my efforts would make maybe 20 to 30 people show up, but when I arrived, there were hundreds of cars lined up,” she said.
Serena Vine was 91 when she died. She was a retired marine who served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. In 1954, Vine graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She spoke three languages, went to church regularly, and was an avid dancer. At the time of her death, she had only a few family or friends still alive.
Still, her funeral gathered hundreds of strangers, all who were deeply touched by her service to her country.
“In the military, we don’t serve alone, therefore we should not die alone,” said Boothe. “She may not have had family and friends, but here we were standing in solidarity together as her family.”
Vine was living with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Community Living Center until her death. In 1995, she was found showing signs of dementia on the streets of Washington D.C.
Major Boothe is now living in Haymarket, Virginia. She’s a disabled veteran that works as a senior human resources officer in the Army. Vine’s story touched Boothe because she had suffered in her life as well. Just before she was getting ready to head to Iraq to serve as a postal platoon leader, Hurricane Katrina left her homeless, along with her 9 year old son, Brandon.
Only a month after becoming homeless, she was diagnosed with adenoidal cancer.
Boothe, who is now 38 years old, runs a nonprofit for homeless female vets calledFinal Salute.
“It was a final act of respect for her,”said Boothe. “I didn’t know her, but I care about her and her service.”
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