No military honors: Sarasota veterans group honors fallen hero in lieu of funeral

Guided by a police escort, the hearse carrying U.S Army Vietnam veteran and retired Sarasota Police Department Detective Rick Lewis pulled into the Disabled American Veterans Bee Ridge Chapter 97.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic changes the way America does just about everything, including military funerals, but his community did not want Lewis's service and sacrifice to go unrecognized.

Commander Ronny Mitchell said it took lots of phone calls and planning, but it was worth it.

As the small procession drove through, they were set up for a final farewell. Some stood outside their cars and saluted. 
Others formed a line with six feet in between. 

"He was so caring and would do anything. It didn't matter what time, you would call him and he would always be there," said Susan Goodman. 

She and others wanted to be there for Lewis to honor his memory. 

National cemeteries across the country can no longer hold military honors. No more than 10 people can attend burials. Even then, they can only be viewed from the road. 

"He'd be very grateful but he knows we all stick together. No matter what," said Goodman. 

His family was able to listen to a chaplain's prayer with their window rolled down. They recorded the ceremony, wiping away tears as one final salute was given. 

"This is something that they take for the rest of their lives, to see the honor and the respect that we showed to one of their loved ones," said Brian Russ, the Commander of Alpha Company Vietnam Brotherhood. 

Even when standing six feet away from one another, the bond felt stronger than ever. 

"We cling together. We are brothers in arms. We are friends. We are companions and we cover each other in a time of need," said Mitchell. 

There was no flag presentation and no 21-gun salute. 

That will be held at a later date when life begins to return to normal. This was the best they could do to remember a hero they'll miss. 

"This is the minimum that we can do. We are not here to prove a point. We are here to honor our fellow brother and send him off properly," said Mitchell. 

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