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Marine veteran who was a longtime advocate for fellow disabled veterans dies at 77

Marines with Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Military Funeral Honors Detail. (Capt. Justin Jacobs/U.S. Marine Corps)

When Ronald Voegeli heard a military veteran was about to be buried in Beaufort National Cemetery with no one to perform the ceremony, he responded quickly.

“I’m coming over.”

Voegeli arrived and performed a service himself, a friend recalled Friday.

“That’s the kind of person he was,” said Chris Swan, commander of the Beaufort chapter of Disabled American Veterans.

Voegeli, a longtime advocate for military veterans with a hand in numerous community organizations, died on Wednesday after recent medical issues. He was 77.

The Beaufort resident was involved in Disabled American Veterans more than 30 years, holding each office in the chapter.

He met regularly with local service members to help them file disability paperwork. And for veterans otherwise without family or means to provide a proper burial ceremony in Beaufort National Cemetery, Voegeli helped rally the community to attend and provide an honorable send-off.

“We’re all brothers and sisters,” Voegeli said after a ceremony for an indigent Vietnam veteran in 2017. “You know veterans, and we all come out and support each other.”

A funeral service will be Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at Community Bible Church. Voegeli will then be buried in Beaufort National Cemetery with full military honors and a “Forget Me Not” ceremony from his fellow chapter members.

Voegeli had endured numerous medical conditions and was hospitalized after a fall and heart incident in December, Swan said. His condition worsened in recent days, but he regained consciousness on Wednesday long enough to tell his loved ones goodbye, Swan said.

Voegeli enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1960 and served in Vietnam from 1969-71, according to information shared by his Disabled American Veterans chapter. He was later a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and administrative chief at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort before his retirement in 1980.

Voegeli took pride in placing American flags in the cemetery for Veterans Day and wreaths on the headstones during the holiday season. He helped organize the veterans group’s Christmas food box program and helped with other organizations like the Child Abuse Prevention Association, Beaufort Charities and American Legion.

For four hours or more each Thursday, Voegeli met along with the Disabled American Veterans other service officers to help local veterans navigate paperwork for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. When someone was unable to meet, Voegeli traveled to them.

“He stood for those who had no one else to stand for them,” the local disabled veterans chapter said in a remembrance prepared about Voegeli.

The chapter provides transportation for veterans who need to attend appointments, helps build wheelchair ramps and do yard work and pays veterans medical bills, and Voegeli worked tirelessly to help raise money for those things, longtime friend and Marine veteran Charlie Pettigrew said.

Voegeli was inspired to help after another veteran worked with him to get disability benefits.

“He’s paid it forward ever since and has been doing it for years,” Pettigrew said.

He was responsible for signing up the chapter’s 1,700 members, the organization said. He was a DAV leader at the state and national levels and was recognized in 2014 as the organization’s recruiter of the year at the national convention in Las Vegas.

Voegeli has “seen it all and done it all,” Swan said.

“He’s someone you want to have go to bat for you,” Swan said. “Veterans in particular.”


© 2020 The Island Packet