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COL. SAM BOONE
U.S. ARMY, RETIRED
South Carolina
COL. SAM BOONE COL. SAM BOONE

HE LEADS EFFORTS FOR MILITARY BURIALS

By Kristin Davis
Photo by Mike Morones

Retired Army Col. Sam Boone cried when he saw his tearful mother clutching the draft papers that sealed his fate in the spring of 1972. Though both expected it — Boone had withdrawn from college to help his mother on the farm after his father died in a plane crash — the draft notice hit hard.

"All these years later," Boone said, "it was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Getting drafted ‘was the best thing that ever happened to me.’

The Army gave Boone his education — including two master’s degrees. Through the Army, he met his wife of 45 years (and counting). And it was while in the service of the Army that he discovered his passion.

He was stationed in Germany as a radio operator and morning report clerk in 1972 when a chaplain told Boone that he had a divine calling.

"Sam Boone is supposed to be an Army chaplain," the clergyman told him.

Those words remained on Boone’s mind through Officer Candidate School, rotary wing flight training, and four assignments. Then, in 1979, he was released from active duty to pursue divinity school. He returned to the Army in 1984 and served as a chaplain until his retirement in 2010.

Today, Boone leads efforts in South Carolina to provide military burials for veterans whose remains go unclaimed and for those who may have no one left to honor them.

He is a MOAA board member and president of the Columbia, S.C., MOAA chapter.

He works with the Missing in America Project and Dignity Memorial to locate, identify, and take custody of cremated remains — a painstaking effort that requires extensive research and paperwork.

Since 2010, Boone has helped lay to rest with full military honors the remains of 259 veterans at state and national cemeteries across South Carolina. Youth at a local juvenile detention center make boxes out of mahogany for the remains.

Often, Boone dons his Army uniform and presides over the funerals, which include music, prayer, and a flag presentation.

Though they may be forgotten in life, Boone ensures the veterans are remembered in death.

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This material originally appeared in Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA PREMIUM and LIFE members.

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