HANAPEPE — No one should be alone, said Jim Jung on Friday morning at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery.
The Kauai Veterans Council chaplain presided over the prayer for Kendall Burwinkle, a sailor who passed away Feb. 18 and whose remains have not been claimed by relatives.
“He has his military ohana,” said Mary Kay Hertog, Kauai Veterans Council commandant. “We don’t know too much about Mr. Burwinkle, but he is home now, and we are his ohana.”
Kamala Mersberg caught a ride with Masami and Jill Kouchi to attend the service.
“She wanted to come,” Jill Kouchi said. “She read about him in the newspaper, and since we’re on our way to Waimea, she asked if we could stop for this service.”
Mersberg rendered several musical presentations, including “America the Beautiful” in both English and Hawaiian that sent ripples of emotion through the small group of people gathered to remember and thank Burwinkle.
Barbara Vallejos was among those who stopped to remember the fallen sailor.
“This is from the heart,” she said. “My husband is a veteran, and he wanted to come, but had to stay in the office today. He said I could come in his place. It looks like we’re going to have another place to stop at this cemetery.”
Burwinkle was born on Dec. 31, 1938 in New York to Albert and Doris Burwinkle in Kings, New York.
“We knew he was a sailor, and he enlisted in 1962, which makes him a Vietnam-era veteran,” Hertog said. “He served for five years, and his last command unit was on Oahu, where he was honorably discharged.”
“Beyond that, we don’t know too much,” Hertog said. “We don’t know when he came to Kauai, or what brought him here. He was just a statistic among the 40,000 homeless veterans that are in the country. After he passed, no one stepped forward to claim his remains. The Office of Veterans Affairs coordinated the inurnment.”
Burwinkle lived in Waimea for six years under the Veterans Affairs-supported housing project that offered him care until he died.
Because he is a sailor, Jung said the prayer is “sailor to sailor,” fishing out his Navy hat that has seen more than 60 years.
“Death is but a gateway to a more glorious life,” Jung said, closing his prayer with a rendition of “Danny Boy” on his harmonica. “We must not fear its coming. Each of us will face this day and join our shipmates on the other shore. Petty Officer Communications Technician 2nd Class Kendall Burwinkle is joining his shipmates today as we commit his remains to the earth.”
Ed Kawamura Sr. of Veterans Helping Veterans said he wore his Vietnam commemorative shirt to the service. “You heard?” Kawamura asked. “He’s a Vietnam-era veteran. Now, he has a home surrounded by all the good people who are here because they care. This is the best place he can be to call home.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.