Veteran cleared to have military honors at funeral

Ralph Hanson

A sailor who served his country 70 years ago and whose family was caught in the middle of a political mess will have military honors at his funeral after all.

The federal government shutdown hit home for the Hanson family of South Kingstown.

"It's just not fair. It's not fair to him. It's not fair to the survivors," Jeff Hanson said Tuesday night.

His father, Ralph Hanson of Bristol, died Friday at the age of 89.

Ralph Hanson joined the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and flew on bomber planes.

Jeff Hanson, his wife Penney, and the family wanted a military honor guard at the funeral service to be held Friday in Bristol.

"He was proud of his country and we just thought this would be a really nice sendoff. He had never requested it. That just wasn't his way," Penney Hanson said.

But there was a problem.

To get the honor guard, they needed Ralph Hanson's military separation papers from the 1940s to prove his service. They couldn't find them, so they needed a copy from the Navy.

Penney Hanson started calling Monday, with the shutdown looming.

"I just couldn't get through. Every phone line I tried told us they weren't going to take any incoming calls at this point because they were being overloaded," Penney Hanson said.

Offices closed altogether Tuesday, and there was no paperwork to be had.

"It's frustrating dealing with a government that's not going to serve you. We elected people to go down and work together. They're not only not working together, they shut the whole business down," Penney Hanson said.

And it's doubly maddening at the Hanson's household in Wakefield.

Jeff Hanson works for the Navy in Newport and is now on furlough.

But for the family, the situation with Ralph Hanson's funeral and little time to spare is the greater injustice.

"So even though my father-in-law volunteered for his country, worked for his country, fought for his country, they're going to do nothing for him in his last days," Penney Hanson said.

But it didn't take long for a resolution.

The office of U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse contacted the Hansons on Wednesday and said they can have the honor guard at the funeral.

NBC 10 also received calls from others willing to help out. A pilot with a World War II-era plane offered to do a flyover.

And the Tiverton fire chief said he could coordinate a fire and police honor guard with a rifle salute.