Dale Wayne Quick, who passed at away at the age of 91 in Lincoln, Nebraska on June 13, 2019, was not a national figure.
His name never appeared in the New York Times. He was not discussed on Fox News, CNN, TMZ or The View. He didn’t win a national lottery, star on Jeopardy or have a large following on Twitter.
Quick spent most of his life in Nebraska, where he loved, married, worked, and worshiped just like millions of Americans do, well out of the spotlight.
That all changed with his death.
Quick was a retired U.S. Postal employee who had spent his last 17 years at the Lancaster Rehabilitation Center in Lincoln. His wife, Caroline, passed away in 1987: the following year, he made funeral arrangements for himself.
When his remains were transferred to Roper and Sons Funeral Home, it was discovered that Quick was a Korean War veteran who had served his country from 1947-1955. It was also determined that he had no known survivors.
His obituary, published in the Lincoln Journal Star, contained the following in bold type: “We are appealing to any and all veterans, veterans clubs and organizations and our community to attend Dale’s service to honor an individual who so selflessly served our country.”
In the obituary section on the Roper and Sons website, a similar appeal was posted.
CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted about the Quick funeral to his more than two million followers. Other media sources made mention of it.
What happened next probably would have surprised Quick: more than 300 mourners, including Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Senator Ben Sasse, turned out to pay their respects.
It was an astounding tribute to someone who lived in anonymity and died virtually alone.
By all accounts, the service was a dignified ceremony which featured both the famed Patriot Guard Riders on their Harley Davidson motorcycles and a twenty-one gun salute at Lincoln’s Fairview Cemetery.
Senator Sasse was gratified: “I mean this is just a picture of what Nebraska is. I was telling my eight year old boy, here’s a guy who fought in the Korean War to fight for my kids and all other Nebraskans’ kids and grandkids freedom. Everybody in Nebraska has this feeling that this guy shouldn’t be laid to rest without a whole bunch of people here to salute him, his memory and his service.
Well said, Senator.
A comparable situation happened in central Texas in January of this year. Joseph Walker, an Air Force veteran who served in Viet Nam, was about to be laid to rest in obscurity when the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery posted a note about it on Facebook.
Tapper at CNN, Senator Ted Cruz and various media outlets publicized the funeral/burial service — more than 5,000 attended.
“Today we are not strangers,” a speaker at the Walker ceremony said. “Today we are family. This is our brother, Joseph Walker…today we give him honors.”
As heartwarming as these funeral stories are, there is a thorny element to them: posthumous recognition is, after all, posthumous. Where was all this love when the veterans were still alive?
Make no mistake, veterans face severe challenges after their service time. There are more than 38,000 homeless veterans, some 300,000 are unemployed, up to 20 percent of them suffer post-traumatic stress…the list of hurdles is long and significant. These are real problems and solutions are elusive.
All of these veterans’ issues raise one underlying alarming concern: over time, has our society allowed the concerns of our veterans to become less relevant?
Vin Scully, the retired and much missed major league baseball announcer, always used Memorial Day and the Fourth of July game broadcasts to salute those who served. “Be sure to teach your children,” he would remind his listeners. He frequently suggested that visual memories of visiting monuments — like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery — were worthy pursuits. Sounds homespun perhaps, but there is a lot of wisdom in what Scully said.
A number of philosophers, including Elie Wiesel, have warned without the memory of those who protected us, men like Dale Wayne Quick and Joseph Walker, there would be no civilization, no future.