Many come together to help Yokosuka veteran’s family

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Many come together to help Yokosuka veteran’s family

by: Michael D. Lutman, Yokosuka Veterans of Foreign Wars | .
published: January 05, 2017

YOKOSUKA, JAPAN – Serving overseas is tough on service men and women and their families.  It is also hard for their loving and supportive family members located back in the United States.  Imagine then, how difficult it would be if you were notified that your son had passed away while living abroad, and you had no idea of how to get his remains sent home. This scenario came to pass for the family of Robert Malcolm, a retired sailor living in Yokosuka, Japan, who passed away at his home in Yokosuka, on June 7. With the family unsure of who to request assistance from, Robert’s aunt, Margaret Bergeron, reached out via the local VA in office in Maine for assistance.

The request for help ultimately made its way to Japan and reached Yokosuka Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1054. As the Post Commander and a retired Master Chief Petty Officer with 30 years of service, I knew who to contact for assistance to help arrange the return of Mr. Malcom’s remains. This story is about the men, women and agencies that came together to help a deceased veteran and his family.  This is their story, and while none of those involved seek recognition or praise, they most certainly deserve it.

Robbie, as he was known to his family, began his trip home early on the morning of June 23, departing Narita airport and arriving at Logan International late that same day. AO1 Robert Malcolm, E-6, USN, RET was laid to rest in his home town of Sanford, Maine on June 27. He is survived by: his mother, Paula Malcolm, and his brother, Michael Malcolm, both of Sanford, Maine; his wife, Yumiko, and his two children, Kasie, who is 10 years old, and Alex, who is 8 years old, all of Yokosuka, Japan; and many aunts, uncles and cousins who were all very thankful.  Here is now the real reason I wanted to write this story.  To make sure those who came together to help a veteran and his family were recognized for their generosity and compassion.

In my role as a VFW Post Commander, I commended them for their quick action, their compassion and support.  Specifically, here are some of the people who had a part in returning Robert:

Robert Glassheim, CIV, L.F.D., DAF DIRECTOR, USAF REGIONAL MORTUARY, JAPAN.  Without his support and guidance, and that of this staff, this effort would have been much, much harder to accomplish. His knowledge of the process, costs and steps/personnel involved was invaluable. It was Bob and his staff that took care of Roberts remains and prepared them for shipment as well as supporting Ms. Burgeron and Yumikosan and their family.

Chris Sexstella at the Yokosuka Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS).  Thanks to her and her staff, NMCRS investigated the situation and funded the return of Robert’s remains VERY quickly.  For them, it was probably all in a day's work.  For Robert's family, it was the critical financial support that was needed to get him home.

Barbara "Bambi" Woods at the Yokosuka Red Cross office Yokosuka.  She wasted no time getting the word to her chain of command regarding Robert's situation and reaching out to his family.

John Tredway and Jodie Smitter at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs office in Yokosuka.  As you would expect, they immediately sprang into action advising their chain of command which resulted in support from Nancy Lansing, RN,BSN,MS Deputy Director, VBA Benefits Assistance Service back in the United States.  She was able to reach out to the Bergeron family and determine how best to assist them.  Just as important, John and his staff were able to reach out to Yumiko Malcolm and her sons to ensure she received assistance regarding DEERS (SBP), DFAS, Social Security and ID Card processing.  John and his staff do not get the credit they deserve for the things they do to support veterans and their family members here in Japan.

Lastly I would like to thank my unsung Post Veterans Service Officer, Mr. Mike Castro, for his support and mentorship. Without Mike’s timely guidance and his coordination with Yumiko Malcolm and the Yokosuka Veterans Affairs Office, our goal could not have been realized.

In a reply email from Margaret Bergeron she said:“To all who have been involved in returning Robert's (Robbie) remains home please accept our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all you've done.  Rob had always expressed wanting to be buried on American soil and thanks to your hard work you've made that possible.  Rob (was) laid to rest on Monday, June 27, 2016.  We also appreciate your assistance in making sure Yumiko and Rob's sons are taken care of, he deeply loved his children and was extremely proud of them.”

Unquestionably, I am very proud to have been a small part of this team and getting Robbie home. The team deserves all the credit and while it has taken me a while to get this story out, you now know that there are some invaluable people and resources here in Yokosuka and in Japan that can and will help Veterans and their families. It’s all about supporting our active duty men and women, veterans and their families. 

As the VFW states, No One Does More to Support Veterans.  In Yokosuka, Japan, the VFW is doing just that.  VFW Post 1054, in conjunction with other agencies that support Veterans in Yokosuka, are Honoring the Dead by Helping the Living.

Tags: Yokosuka Naval Base, Base Info
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