FLEETWOOD — Walbert Funeral Home & Cremation Services refurbished and retrofitted a military Humvee as a hearse, offering a new service — free of charge — to military veterans and their families.

“The Humvee Hearse offers a fitting tribute to our military veterans by allowing them a military vehicle for their funeral transportation,” said Russell P. Walbert, owner of Walbert Funeral Home. “Alicia and I truly appreciate all that veterans have done for all of us. As the parents of a U.S. Army officer who is currently serving based out of Ft. Bragg, N.C., we understand the sacrifices that are made for us by our veterans. We wanted to be able to give back to our veterans in appreciation for all they have done for us.”

Walbert won the military Humvee in a raffle last year.

“In April of 2018, I went to Cigars International to purchase a birthday present for my friend from Maryland. When I purchased his cigars, I received a raffle ticket for the Humvee which was being raffled off by Asylum Cigars,” said Walbert.

In July of 2018, Walbert received a phone call that he won the Humvee in the raffle.

“I was stunned. The first question they asked me was, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ I immediately responded that I was going to use it to bury veterans,” said Walbert. “Needless to say, that surprised them a bit.”

Walbert’s son, Colin Walbert, is an artillery officer in the U.S. Army.

“Veterans are near and dear to our hearts, not only because of our son’s current active duty, but also from my grandfather, Clayton Walbert, a U.S. Marine in World War II.”

After winning the vehicle, Walbert contacted John and Matt Graeff from Kutztown. John is a retired Army mechanic who served 26 years and his son is a current member of the Army National Guard in Pennsylvania.

“I had just buried John’s father-in-law (and Matt’s grandfather), Clifford Schlenker, three weeks prior to winning the Humvee. Clifford was a Master Sergeant in the Army and Matt had brought an Army Humvee to the funeral as a tribute to his grandfather,” said Walbert.

The Humvee was first sent to Kutztown Auto for mechanical repairs.

John and Matt Graeff took over from there and finished the mechanical repairs along with all of the refinishing and repainting of the Humvee. A custom hearse deck was ordered along with a few other accessories to enable the Humvee to be a fully functioning hearse to be used for veteran funeral and memorial services.

“This Humvee Hearse is definitely a very unique vehicle custom refinished and outfitted to receive caskets and urns for transportation to local or national cemeteries. This Humvee began U.S. Army military service in 1986 at Fort Carson, Colorado and also served time with the Maine and Maryland National Guards,” said Walbert.

The Humvee Hearse was introduced to the community during local Memorial Day weekend events.

“We have received an overwhelming response to the Humvee Hearse. We have many folks have expressed their desire to have our Humvee Hearse transport them to their final resting place when the time comes,” said Walbert.

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Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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