When Frank Salamone of Reading heard that a fellow Vietnam veteran from Berks County had died but had no known family to attend the funeral, he knew what he had to do.
Salamone, a Marine combat veteran of the war had never met Francisco Rivera, 71, who died Aug. 22 in his Reading home. But still, Salamone felt a kinship with Rivera, an Army veteran from the Vietnam-era.
So Salamone and about 10 other Vietnam veterans from Berks County, none of whom knew Rivera, attended his service Thursday at the John P. Feeney Funeral Home in Reading to give him a final salute.
Afterward, funeral home owner Michael Feeney drove Rivera's flag-draped coffin to Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Lebanon County. The veteran was buried following a ceremony from an Army honor guard and salutes from the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group.
Rivera, like all veterans, earned his burial in the cemetery free of charge, and Salamone and Vietnam-era veteran Dave Krick of Blandon followed Feeney's hearse there to again pay their respects.
Feeney himself served in Vietnam, where he earned three Purple Hearts, and in Rivera's obituary he asked for fellow Vietnam veterans to come to the service.
"We don't let veterans be unceremoniously disposed of," he said.
One of the veterans at the service told Feeney something that was typical of the sentiments others expressed.
"He will always have family," the veteran said of Rivera. "It's us."
Krick felt likewise, saying it didn't matter what branch of the military Rivera was in, only that he had served his country.
"Because of that, I had to be here for him," he said.
Other than the veterans, the only person who came to the funeral home was Modesto Reyes, a driver for Berks Taxi who took Rivera to the Lebanon VA Hospital several times a year and enjoyed their time together.
"He was the kind of friend you want," Reyes said.
Reyes said Rivera talked a lot about his military service, telling him he was an expert rifleman.
He was clearly proud to have been a soldier, Reyes said.
So Reyes too made the trip to Indiantown Gap and said the turnout by the Vietnam veterans was a fitting tribute.
"He's probably smiling right now," Reyes said of his friend.
Source: Reading Eagle