91-year-old Serina Vine died May 21st with no living relatives. She never married or had children. For a year of her life, she was homeless. She spent the last twenty years of her life in the Department of Veteran Affairs’ 120-bed Community Living Center in Washington. Still, about 200 people – enough to cause a traffic jam at the cemetery entrance – came to her funeral.
Vine worked in radio intelligence for the US Navy from November of 1944 to August of 1946.
Though none knew her personally, they came to pay their respects to one of their own. Sailors stood at either end of the coffin at Quantico National Cemetery. A Marine captain faced the center of the coffin with his arms at his sides. Motorcyclists – many of them combat veterans, Marines, and other retired and active-duty service members turned out after the word spread on social media and veterans groups took notice.
Army Major Jaspen Boothe said that she received a Facebook message that only four people had RSVP’d for the funeral. She reached out to various organizations at that point to tell them about Vine.
She called Vine her sister because both had sworn to protect the Constitution.
“We are all a testament to what we do when we are called to honor our fellow brothers and sisters,” said Boothe. She is the president of Final Salute, Inc., a non-profit organization that helps homeless female veterans. Boothe, who currently serves in the Army Reserve, was homeless for about a year in 2006.
Retired Marine William Jones, of Spotsylvania County, organized the funeral after receiving a call on Friday from Katie Bryan. Bryan works with Jones at the Marine Corps Base Quantico. She oversaw Vine’s finances and served as her legal custodian. Jones thought that he would be one of only four attendees.
“I said to myself: unacceptable,” Jones told the crowd. He echoed a message from Boothe, saying she told him, “We serve together, so therefore we should not die alone.”
Dwight Michael, another Quantico colleague, gave a eulogy. The pastor from Piney Branch Baptist Church in Spotsylvania said that just because little is known about Vine does not mean that she didn’t accomplish anything.
Vine graduated from the University of California, Berkley in 1954 when “higher education wasn’t an expectation for most women.”
She spoke three languages and was a scholar. She also delighted in dressing up for church every Sunday.
“We might not know much about sister Vine, but what we do know is that she should be remembered as one who had a character to serve and that she contributed to the life that we enjoy today in this nation,” Micheal said.
Martin Fuller may have been the only person at the funeral who had met Vine. He is a field examiner from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Vine was the roommate of a 107-year-old woman who was the oldest living veteran before she died last year. First Lady Michelle Obama visited their room at the Community Living Center.
He said that Vine was a “very caring and lovely person.”
“She was just a friendly person – never gave anybody a hard time,” he said.
Once the service ended, several service members placed their hands on Vine’s coffin.
The scene was “social media at its best right there,” according to one attendee. “Absolutely,” replied another attendee.