LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Friends and family of Lakeland WWII veteran William Bateman gathered to honor his life and service to the country.
At his graveside service, a detachment of Marines performed full military honors for his funeral. It’s something the family had been working to arrange.
As a 17-year-old William Frederick Bateman joined the Marines in 1943. He had to get permission from his family to join the service at that age, but like millions of others at the time, he wanted to serve his country.
Bateman’s family wanted to honor his service after he passed away on Sept. 6 at the age of 96, but their funeral home insisted they present a DD-214 before they would put in a request for the military honors at the funeral.
The DD-214 is a standard federal document that indicates a separation of service from the military. The problem is, the DD-214 did not exist as a federal form before Bateman was honorably discharged as a Marine.
The family didn’t know what to do, so they turned to 8 On Your Side for help.
After some work, Mr. Bateman’s service documents were located, along with a citation for a Bronze Star, the family didn’t know about.
The citation was even issued by Lt. General H.M. Smith, who is also known as “Howling Mad Smith”, a larger than life figure who is considered to be the father of modern, amphibious warfare.
On Tuesday, the Marine Honor Guard presented a neatly folded flag to the family on behalf of a grateful nation and the family was grateful William Bateman’s service to the country had been honored.
“It was more than the family was hoping for. My mom was over there just squeezing my hand, so thank you, it was great,” said Bateman’s daughter-in-law Sheri Kell.