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200 People Attend Funeral for World War II Vet with No Known Relatives

The Quantico National Cemetery spans 725-acres and was founded in 1983. The facility conducts more than 1,100 funerals annually. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Tiffiney Wertz)
The Quantico National Cemetery spans 725-acres and was founded in 1983. The facility conducts more than 1,100 funerals annually. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Tiffiney Wertz)

She was one of their own -- that was all that mattered.

Motorcyclists wearing jeans and leather vests gathered around the World War II veteran's flag-draped casket at Quantico National Cemetery on Tuesday.

The bikers, many combat veterans, were joined by uniformed Marines and other retired and active-duty service members.

Sailors stood at either end of the bluish-gray casket, and a Marine captain faced the center of the coffin with his arms by his sides.

The diverse crowd of about 200 people had come to pay respects to 91-year-old Serina Vine, who worked in radio intelligence for the U.S. Navy from November 1944 until August 1946.

Vine, who died May 21, had no known living relatives and spent the last 20 years of her life at the Department of Veterans Affairs' 120-bed Community Living Center in Washington.

At first, just a handful of people planned to attend her funeral. Then word spread on social media about the formerly homeless veteran who never married or had children.

Veterans groups took notice, as evidenced by the traffic jam at the cemetery's entrance just 20 minutes before the 11 a.m. funeral.

Everyone was there for Vine, though none of them had known her personally.

Army Maj. Jaspen Boothe, who addressed the crowd in a dress and combat boots, said she received a Facebook message Friday stating just four people had RSVP'd for the funeral. So she reached out to various organizations to tell them about the woman she described as homeless but not hopeless.

She said Vine was her sister because both swore to defend 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 president of the nonprofit Final Salute Inc., which assists homeless female veterans. Boothe, who is now in the Army Reserve, said she 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, who works with him at Marine Corps Base Quantico and oversaw Vine's finances as her legal custodian. Jones originally expected to 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."

Another Quantico colleague, Dwight Micheal, delivered a rousing eulogy, saying many people might conclude Vine was a nobody. But just because little is known about her does not mean she accomplished nothing, said Micheal, a pastor at Piney Branch Baptist Church in Spotsylvania.

He noted that she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1954, a time when "higher education wasn't an expectation for most women."

Vine spoke three languages, added Micheal, who drew laughs when he said most people have barely mastered one. She was a scholar, he said.

She was also a woman of spirit who delighted in dressing up for church every Sunday, the pastor said.

"We might not know much about sister Vine, but what we do know is 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.

A woman in an orange dress dabbed tears from her eyes during the eulogy.

Martin Fuller, a field examiner from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, may have been the only person at the funeral who had actually met Vine. He said 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 had visited their room at the VA's Community Living Center, Fuller said.

He said Vine was a "very caring and lovely person."

"She just was a friendly person--never gave anybody a hard time," he said.

Once the service ended, several service members placed their hands on Vine's casket.

Boothe, the formerly homeless vet, kissed the coffin, her eyes closed.

One lady described the scene as "social media at its best right here."

"Absolutely," replied another attendee.

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