March 30, 2017 –
“In life, he honored the flag. In death, the flag honors him,” said Maj. Joe Ward, a chaplain with the West Virginia Army National Guard, to the small group gathered around him.
The chaplain is part of a small detail led by Command Sgt. Maj. Angel Rivera, command sergeant major of the 210th Regional Support Group, an Army Reserve unit from Puerto Rico, to honor a recently deceased American citizen living in Belize, Master Sgt. David Pandy Jr.
The honor guard belongs to a larger task force that was in Belize for a humanitarian exercise called Beyond the Horizon 2017. The exercise is designed to improve medical and educational infrastructure by providing three health care service events and building five new medical and school buildings throughout the country.
Neither the command sergeant major nor the chaplain expected to be under the hot sun in a foreign country watching a casket being lowered into the ground during their annual training.
These Soldiers, though busy with their primary missions at the construction sites and medical events, made time to render honors to one of their own.
“Master Sgt. David Pandy Jr. passed away March 19th,” said the chaplain. “His family found out about Beyond the Horizon and contacted me to find out if the task force would be willing or able to do the 22-year veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm funeral honors at his burial.”
Pandy returned to his home country for his retirement, settling in Ladyville, not far from Belize City. Without assistance from this unexpected source, he would have been unable to receive funeral honors accorded to veterans in his adopted country of the United States.
The chaplain did not let that happen. Ward took the matter to Rivera who assembled a team of Soldiers with experience in burial details for the honor guard.
“There was no question,” said Rivera. “He deserved it. The chaplain showed me a picture of his (discharge papers), his retirement card. Master Sgt. Pandy earned this. Some give their lives, some give a lifetime. It was time for us to show our gratitude.”
Pandy left behind two sons who followed in his military footsteps. Maj. Dion Pandy Sr. is an active duty signal officer at the Pentagon and his brother, Devon Pandy, is a retired Chief Warrant Officer 2. Both were at the funeral, as was their sister Deshana Pandy, who received the folded flag from the sergeant major. She is the one who initiated the request through the chaplain.
Taps played solemnly in the background as three Soldiers folded the American flag. Two sons saluted their father, and a daughter received a flag with her own daughter at her side.
The plaque on the casket read, Beloved Soldier, Father, Grandfather and Brother.
The detail marched away from the gravesite after Rivera presented the flag, lingering a little to watch the family place their loved one in the ground.
The former warrant officer made it a point to catch up with the funeral detail before they left the cemetery. He opened up the doors to their van to tell them how much he appreciates what they have done for his father.
“You have no idea how much this means to me and to my family,” Devon said. “I thank each and every one of you for this.”
The mission of Beyond the Horizon keeps the task force busy doing for others, helping others, and taking care of others.
On this day, they made time to take care of one of their own.