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Nearly six years after his death, Valparaiso veteran buried at Arlington National Cemetery in time for Memorial Day
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Nearly six years after his death, Valparaiso veteran buried at Arlington National Cemetery in time for Memorial Day

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VALPARAISO — Fifteen years ago, Glenn and Diane Bovard visited Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

The former U.S. Marine and Indiana State Police detective never told his wife that's where he'd like to be buried.

"I had an inkling. I think I knew then that's where he wanted to be, but he never told me," Diane said from their Valparaiso home.

And when Glenn died in 2012 from an infection he contracted after a heart transplant, his ashes sat in their home.

Plans were, Diane said, to eventually scatter his ashes over Lake Michigan. He was a "water baby," she said, who loved to swim and ski.

But something always came up, some voice deep inside of her, that always caused a delay.

Then last fall Diane ran into an old classmate whose husband had died and was buried at the national cemetery.

"All of a sudden, a light bulb went off. I sent in an application last winter, and it was accepted," she said.

Her husband had found his final resting place. On May 10, some 40 family members and friends joined Diane for a military funeral with honors for Glenn at Arlington.

Glenn's story

Glenn Bovard was born Oct. 14, 1947 in Gary. His early years, Diane said, were hard. His parents divorced. His father died at a young age. Glenn lived with relatives. He eventually moved to Porter County and graduated from Chesterton High School.

He was just turning 20 when he joined the Marine Corps on Aug. 30, 1967, she said. 

"In the back of his mind, it was the right thing to do," Diane said of her husband's choice to enlist. "Glenn did the right thing all the time."

Within months he was shipped to Vietnam. In September 1968, the truck he was riding in hit a land mine just south of Da Nang and caught fire. He received second and third degree burns to more than 19 percent of his body, especially his head, ears and upper extremities.

Initially sent to the hospital ship the USS Sanctuary, Glenn was then sent stateside to recover at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

Diane said Glenn underwent more than 35 surgeries in 18 months, including several skin grafts and rebuilding the top of one of his ears.

He was honorably discharged on April 20, 1970, achieving the rank of corporal.

When he came home, he worked as an ironworker for a time and then as a bartender, but Glenn had a deep desire to continue to serve his country and community despite his injuries, Diane said.

He'd always wanted to join the state police, but was initially refused because of his scars. He was told they made him "too scary," Diane said.

"He took it further, and he was accepted," she said of his persistence. "He felt the need, and he wanted to continue to serve."

Glenn began his ISP career patrolling the Indiana Toll Road. He eventually made detective and joined the Safe Streets Team, an FBI-sponsored group of federal, state and local officers whose mission was to locate and apprehend the area's most violent fugitives during the 1990s, said Charles Grelecki, a retired FBI agent, who led the group.

"Glenn was one of those rare people who one trusted one's life with. All of us who worked with him knew that he would willingly step in harm's way to protect us," Grelecki said.

Glenn retired from the ISP on his 60th birthday in 2007.

Just three or four years later, Glenn began to develop heart disease. The ischemic heart disease was a result of his being exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, Diane said.

As his heart deteriorated, doctors said he was in need of a transplant. The disease progressed rapidly, Diane said, adding before he could get a transplant, doctors installed a left ventricular assist device or heart pump to keep his blood flowing through his heart.

When a heart did become available, Diane said, she was against the transplant because he was doing well on the LVAD and the donor heart was considered at-risk.

"But he was positive, positive, positive," she said, adding he didn't want to continue to be hooked up to the device. "He believed after he was blown up and survived, that every day was gravy."

Glenn pulled through the heart transplant and seemed to be recovering well when he contracted the blood infection that eventually took his life.

Arlington National Ceremony

The 624-acre Arlington National Cemetery has been the final resting place to more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families since its inception during the Civil War. Thirty to 36 burials are conducted every day on the grounds. It is also the home of the Tomb of the Unknowns as well as several other monuments and memorials.

"There were 41 people at the ceremony, people willing to spend the time and money," Diane said, adding friends and family came from as far as Florida and Wisconsin to honor her husband of nearly 15 years.

Glenn met the requirements of an in-ground burial with full military honors because he had been honorably discharged and had received the Purple Heart, among other medals.

The burial ceremony, Diane said, was emotional as an honor guard of six Marines escorted her husband's urn and flag to the burial site with military precision. They unfolded the flag and held it above the urn as the chaplain conducted the service.

A friend played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. A bugler played taps. A nine-member firing party provided a military salute. The flag was then folded and presented to Diane. 

"Everything was hard and tearful. It was just so awesome, so respectful," she said.

And, she added, while it was difficult to sign the paperwork acknowledging his remains were now the property of the U.S. government, she knew that would be what he wanted.

"I think he's smiling about it right now," Diane said.

"He believed after he was blown up and survived, that every day was gravy," Diane Bovard on her late husband, Glenn's, attitude on life.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

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