LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- A Navy honor guard paid tribute to the late actor Ernest Borgnine with a full-honors military send-off at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park and Mortuaries cemetery in Hollywood, Calif., July 14.
The honor guard honored Borgnine’s lifetime of service and contributions to the Navy and its cause.
“Ernie, as you may know, loved and adored the Navy, and the sea, and all of you,” said Tova Traesnaes Borgnine, the late actor’s wife. “I know Ernie’s looking down on us right now and blessing all of you and all of your fellows across the world for all you do for our country, for our people, and especially for us today.”
After serving in the Navy for 10 years, Borgnine left the service at the end of World War II as a petty officer 1st class. Ten years later, he won an Academy Award for his performance as the lead in “Marty.”
He went on to star as the title character in the hit 60s sitcom “McHale’s Navy.” In 2004, then-Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott awarded Borgnine with an honorary advancement to chief petty officer.
“When Ernie was promoted to honorary chief ... there was never, of all the honors – even Ernie’s academy award – never anything that meant as much to him,” said Capt. Kathi Dugan (ret.), one of Borgnine’s closest friends. “He had tears in his eyes.”
When Borgnine was making his final arrangements, requesting military honors at his funeral was definitely his idea, said Dugan.
Dugan quoted Borgnine as saying, “‘I don’t know if I’ve earned [a military funeral], but I can’t think of a more appropriate way for me to leave this world than with my Navy men and women.’”
The Navy portion of the ceremony was organized by Builder 2nd Class Marco Valdovinos, the funeral honor guard district coordinator attached to the Navy Operational Support Center in Moreno Valley. Valdovinos said that his 30-member contingent of reserve Sailors have officiated at more than 1,450 ceremonies this past fiscal year.
“This veteran has a great history of contributions to our community, to our nation and to the service,” said Valdovinos. “To me, it’s a tremendous honor. There’s nothing greater for me, to be able to serve in this capacity. To render one final salute to our fallen veteran – it is just great.”
Borgnine thought so highly of the Navy that he asked in his will that attendants to his funeral donate to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in lieu of bringing flowers.
One attendant from the press donated $1,000 that day.