On June 5, first-class private Robert Lee Serling died at the age of 100. He was one of the few Black men to serve in the Pacific.
Officer Newman Brazier of the Mount Vernon Police Department honored fellow veteran Serling while standing in the pouring rain. Brazier stood outside the cemetery gate until Serling’s funeral procession had passed through the gate entirely and had no idea that his respect would draw attention to him.
“I felt that he would want to be acknowledged. I felt that, being from a small town like Mt. Vernon, he could do what he did and pass and nobody would realize it and not respect it. It was my point to let everyone in that area know that he was there, he was passing through, even if it was for the last time,” Brazier said, according to WPMI.
Serling, a private first class from Mount Vernon, a small town about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Mobile, was one of the few Black troops who fought in the Pacific during the war, and Brazier said he wanted the veteran’s death to be remembered.
“It was my point to let everyone in that area know that he was there, he was passing through, even if it was for the last time,” said Brazier.
Eddie Irby Jr., president and founder of the 92nd Infantry Division Association, a club for veterans of the unit, said, “Everybody at the community center said something about that after we got up there and started the program. They said, ‘Man, did you see that cop up there soaking wet, standing at attention.’ It took an effect on those guys, especially those veterans, to see somebody doing that. What an honor.”
“Somebody like that, you marvel at their respect, admiration, and all they stand for,” he added.