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At long last: Decorated Vietnam veteran, with the help of a friend, finally gets a marker for his grave

By Staff | Oct 31, 2019

“In life, if you leave this world with just one good friend, you’ve had a good life.” Those words from Hearts & Homes for Veterans President and founder Donald Payton came full circle Thursday at Coral Ridge Cemetery, as Bert Seidman fulfilled his goal of getting his friend, Martin S. Posnansky, the recognition he deserves.

Posnansky, a Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Star for Valor recipient with no next of kin, was buried at Coral Ridge following his death in 2006. Up until Seidman’s pledge, along with the help of Payton and others, Posnansky had been buried in an unmarked grave.

Now, he is memorialized properly in Southwest Florida.

“He had a happy-go-lucky way of life, and he was a good friend all the way up until he passed away,” Seidman said. “I’m just grateful that he finally has, by the grace of God, a marker on his grave to tell the world what he did and who he was, because he deserves every bit of it, if not more.

“I feel the burden, the pain in my heart that I’ve carried for 13 years, knowing that he didn’t have a headstone, has been lifted.”

The law previously prevented those who were not family members from placing grave markers.

The two met in temple, as they are both of the Jewish faith. After meeting, the two became instant friends and continued that relationship on for 10 years.

Rabbi Nicole Luna from Temple Beth El in Fort Myers presided over a ceremony at Coral Ridge Thursday, where Posnansky’s grave marker was revealed.

Seidman, along with the Honor Guard of Jewish War Veterans and other supporters, were also in attendance.

Posnansky was an Army medic, and served for three years starting in September 1958 and again from April 1967 to October 1970.

A description of his actions that resulted in his Bronze Star for Valor reads:

“For heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force: On this date, Specialist Posnansky was serving as a medical aidman with his company, established in a night defensive perimeter near Highway 13. During the early morning hours, the position was subjected to an intense mortar attack and vicious ground assault by a Viet Kong force estimated at battalion size. Specialist Posnansky ran through the barrage of enemy mortars and automatic weapons fire to administer first aid to a number of wounded personnel. With complete disregard for his personal safety, crawled outside the perimeter to assist a wounded soldier trapped by the enemy fire. He treated the man and then took him to the medical evacuation site as enemy rounds constantly impacted about them. He again exposed himself to hostile fireThe determined actions and professional skill of Specialist Posnansky during the combat situation were instrumental in saving a number of lives.”

“He never divulged what he did in Vietnam,” Seidman said. “I knew he was a vet from ‘Nam. I guess they didn’t want to talk about what they did. Only when he died did I find out how much he gave to save other people.”

Seidman said he was contemplating funding the graver marker out of his own pocket, until Payton and others stepped in and got it done rather swiftly. Seidman had been working since 2015 to place a marker at Posnansky’s burial site, a place Seidman visits each year to pray — a promise he made to his friend when he was still alive.

“I was going to fund it to be put in the ground,” Seidman said. “The man — what he did, under fire, with zero chance of pulling anybody out, more or less himself, evacuated and got to several men. It was a battalion of Viet Cong that were shooting at him and wounding soldiers in an ambush. He crawled around on the ground and continued pulling out GIs, getting them airlifted out. His heroism, he never mentioned a word about it. He was just a great soul. He had people laughing wherever he went.”

After Rabbi Luna finished the ceremony and revealed the distinguished grave marker, those in attendance came up and placed a stone on the marker, a sign in the Jewish faith that someone has come to remember and pay tribute to a lost loved one.

“The stone indicates that someone was here,” Seidman said. “He is not here, I know that. Psychologically, he’s in a better place. You can expel things that you hold within that you say at a grave site. They might not hear it, but wherever they are, they acknowledge it. I’m not saying coming out here should cleanse you, but at least it shows you don’t forget. You can always forgive no matter what, but a lot of things you can’t forget. He’ll never be forgotten as long as I’m alive.”

Payton, along with the help of Lee County Veteran Services, got Posnansky’s paperwork straightened out, as Seidman said he was twice denied by the VA due to missing information.

“Within three weeks, we had the headstone set,” Payton said.

Hearts & Homes for Veterans takes care of homeless and low-income veterans in Lee County. The non-profit was created in 2013, and their philosophy is to stand ready to help provide services to meet needs of veterans via housing, food, financial support, finding employment and more.

“It feels great, being a Vietnam veteran,” Payton said of helping get Posnansky his long overdue grave marker. “I would hope I’d have a friend like (Bert) some day that cared so much.”

Hearts & Homes for Veterans put more than 90 veterans in housing just this year alone, and provides them with all of the essentials they need to get acclimated and comfortable.

For more information on Heart & Homes for Veterans, visit www.HHVeterans.com.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj