Four months after his death, Joseph Pictrowicz, an indigent United States Army veteran, received a military burial at Calverton National Cemetery on Wednesday, July 15, thanks to the efforts of the Queens County American Legion.
As an organizational friend to indigent veterans – along with Rolling Thunder, Inc. and Vietnam Veterans Chapter 22 – the American Legion and the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs (MOVA) have taken responsibility for forgotten veterans who served honorably in the armed forces by providing them with a military service and burial.
Pictrowicz, 63, would have been buried in a mass gravePotter’s Field, the largest taxpayer funded cemetery in the world.
“I think it’s great that the city of New York decided to reach out to provide this service to veterans,” said Paul J. Schottenhamel, Adjutant of the America Legion. “The big problem is the law says the city cannot transport a body outside of its boundaries and there are no active veterans’ cemeteries left in the city.”
George Werst Funeral Home, located at 71-41 Cooper Avenue in Glendale, has handled the five indigent veteran funeral services in cooperation with the American Legion. Costs for the services are allocated by the MOVA at a lesser rate.
“They help as a service for veterans and we thank them for that,” said Schottenhamel.
“These men and women served selflessly in the armed forces . . . the least we can do is bury them honorably, as veterans,” said Sean Anderson, funeral director at George Werst Funeral Home.
Schottenhamel and American Legion member Mike Honan spoke to several other veterans in front of Pictrowicz’s flag-draped casket, reading prayers and final tributes to their fellow veteran.
“Because of [our veterans], we are free,” said Honan.
There is no way to know how many veterans go without military funeral or have already been buried in Potter’s Field, according to Chapter 22 president, Pat Toro, who has overseen 32 indigent veteran burials.
“We are very proud to be doing this,” said Toro
Pictrowicz died at Wartburg Lutheran Home for the Aging on Tuesday, March 30. His honorable discharge from the United States Army was found among his personal possessions. His folded American flag presented by two Army officials will be held by the American Legion until a family member steps forward. No family was present at the services.