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MailTribune.com
  • Paperwork slip-up cancels vet's memorial at last minute

    On the planned day of his memorial and interment at Eagle Point National Cemetery, a former Korean War veteran's family was surprised to learn that a paperwork oversight had canceled the event
  • The funeral of a Korean War veteran slated for 1 p.m. last Wednesday at Eagle Point National Cemetery turned out not to be scheduled at all, leaving 150 mourners scrambling for a new spot at the last minute.
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  • The funeral of a Korean War veteran slated for 1 p.m. last Wednesday at Eagle Point National Cemetery turned out not to be scheduled at all, leaving 150 mourners scrambling for a new spot at the last minute.
    Part of the problem was the discharge document for Orville "Nick" Nichols, 82, of Medford, who served on a hospital ship off Korea and died June 12. The document, known as a DD214, was a fuzzy photocopy of a white-on-black photostat, which had to be verified by the Veterans Administration's National Cemetery Scheduling Office in St. Louis — a step that had not been completed.
    However, his son, Rick Nichols of Rogue River, faults the cemetery for not notifying the grieving family of this fact. The family had assumed their reservation was good and was preparing to meet 150 kin and friends for a memorial service and interment of ashes in a wall.
    The family thought the site and military honors had been reserved, but instead learned there was no funeral scheduled when a florist attempted to deliver flowers at the cemetery Wednesday morning and was told of the fact.
    Vonna Hangaard, administrative officer at Eagle Point National Cemetery, said it was up to Perl Funeral Home in Medford to arrange the ceremony and get the military documentation handled, and that had not been done.
    When called for comment, a person at Perl said they were not taking calls on the matter.
    On the day of the memorial, Perl gave the family a spot for the ceremony at no charge, said Nichols. With only four hours to go, the family phoned all the guests, he said, successfully getting the word out to most of them. Some still ended up at the National Cemetery and missed the memorial.
    Nichols appealed to the office of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, whose staff helped speed document verification, said Nichols, but it arrived half an hour before the time of the memorial — too late.
    That verification does allow interment of ashes, which the family will do in a small ceremony next week, said Hangaard. She said that such verification normally takes a week.
    "Just about any government agency is going to take time, and you have to have patience," said Nichols. "But my patience ran out. When you're grieving and trying to honor and respect someone, especially a super-dependable guy like Nick, it dishonors him and his service to our country. They should have had the courtesy to call us. ... I'm just really angry about it."
    His wife, Tresa Nichols, said that during the pre-memorial upheaval, "My heart just about stopped, with panic inside and my mind whirling. ... We wanted to scream so loud."
    Rick Nichols said the memorial at the cemetery was "reserved," which means "penciled in," but that it doesn't get "scheduled" until military service is verified.
    "It's the fault of the system," said Nichols. "They do the scheduling at the national level, but they need to have a point person, an advocate working for the veteran locally. I was the only one working for him."
    Nick Nichols was born in Medford in 1931, and played football and basketball for Talent High School. He graduated and joined the Navy in 1948, rising to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. After four years, he was discharged and had a 39-year career as a sander at Timber Products in Medford.
    He is survived by sons Mark and Rick, three grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, all of whom were gathered for the memorial. His wife of 55 years, Reva, died in 2008.
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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