UPDATE ON 3/26: After NBC 7's reporting, Veterans Affairs, which runs the San Diego national cemeteries, reached out to the Chavez family to tell them 10 people would be allowed at the Marine combat vet's funeral. The family told NBC 7 they are grateful.
Veterans Affairs says that there was a miscommunication with the family about the new guidelines have been set up for national cemeteries because of the coronavirus pandemic. Military honors will not be conducted due to safety reasons, the VA said. Families can postpone internments and 10 family members will be allowed to attend burials with social distancing. Cemeteries are still open for visitation. More information is listed below article.
The family of Marine combat veteran Jose Chavez is preparing to lay him to rest, but because of the coronavirus pandemic not one family member or friend will be at the ceremonies.
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The 62-year-old retired Master Gunnery Sergeant died March 12 after a two-year battle with cancer.
“He went out like a great warrior should, you know, surrounded by people that loved him, and people that appreciated him,” said his son Joey Chavez.
Before his life ended, Jose Chavez chose to be buried at Miramar National Cemetery.
What he didn’t know was the spread of the coronavirus would keep his family and friends from being at that burial. Veteran’s Affairs told the Chavez family the cemetery is closed to the public because of the pandemic. It also means Chavez will be buried without military honors.
Not even his wife Annie Chavez can be there.
“My heart, just not being able to give him that burial because he so deserves it,” she told NBC 7.
Jose Chavez joined the Marine Corps at 17 years old. He met his wife Annie, who was also a Marine, while in the service.
“My dad loved the Corps almost as much as he loved his own family,” Joey Chavez said.
The elder Chavez was a decorated combat veteran who served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. After he retired he continued to work with Marines at Camp Pendleton.
The coronavirus has also postponed the large funeral service the family had planned at a nearby catholic church.
A local funeral home is allowing a small funeral service for seven family members. But that too is disheartening as Chavez had four children and twelve grandchildren.
“I know this isn’t easy on anybody. Nobody feels good about this, not them, not us,” his son said.
One day they will give Jose Chavez the service he earned and deserves, his son told NBC7.
“When this is all over we want to have the 21 gun salute for him. We want to have the flag folding," he explained.
But they are still holding out hope for a miracle -- that at least Annie Chavez be able to be there for her husband’s burial at Miramar National Cemetery so she can say goodbye to the love of her life, who loved the Marine Corps with all of his.
Updated 3/26 Veterans Affairs want veterans and families to know about updated policies because of coronavirus pandemic.
- VA national cemeteries remain open for our primary mission of interring Veterans and eligible family members.
- As a matter of public health and safety, committal services and the rendering of military funeral honors, whether by military personnel or volunteer organizations, are discontinued until further notice.
- Families can inter now and conduct a service at the cemetery at a future date, or they can postpone the service and interment until later – it’s their call.
- Families may request to view the interment, but we will keep them at a safe distance and limit them to no more than 10 immediate family members.
- Visitors are still welcome, but should obey local restrictions to limit unnecessary travel if they apply. Also, visitors should anticipate that some of our facilities may be closed. At Miramar National Cemetery and Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, the Administration Buildings are closed, but public restrooms are open.
- These actions are necessary to protect the health of families, NCA team members, and the honor guards who normally render military funeral honors.
The VA and San Diego National Cemeteries will work with families to see that veterans who have so proudly served will be given military honors at the families request at a later date.