KINGSTON — The Selective Service wants World War I veteran Bert Huey back.
Huey, who died in 1995 at the age of 100, fought in the U.S. Army during WWI and if he were alive today — even at 119 — his grandson said he would probably take the letter to the Selective Service and offer to sign up.
“If he was here, yeah, he would probably laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll go.’ He was that kind of guy,” said Chuck Huey, Bert’s 73-year-old grandson.
Chuck Huey and his wife, Jane, live at 583 Meadowland Ave. in Kingston, in the house his grandfather built. When Chuck got his mail recently, he saw a letter from the Selective Service.
He opened it and saw it was addressed to his grandfather, requesting — more like ordering — the deceased WWI vet to register.
“Our records identify you as a man who may be required to register with Selective Service,” the letter stated. “Failure to register with Selective Service is a federal crime punishable by a fine and imprisonment.”
As ridiculous as the scenario appears, Huey was at first angered by the letter, saying it represents ineptness on the part of the government and it dredged up memories of his grandfather, who he misses every day.
The letter lists Bert Huey’s date of death as his date of birth. He died in May of 1995, which had he been born on that date, he would be 19 today. The Selective Service System was just a bit over — by more than 100 years — on his age.
Chuck Huey said his grandfather and his brother, George, operated a grocery store — Huey’s Corner Grocery Store — in the 1920s and 1930s at 60 Union St. in Dorranceton, Kingston’s first name.
Chuck said his grandfather was an outgoing man who enjoyed people and was proud to have served his country. He was later employed by the former J.B. Carr Biscuit Co.
Prior to his retirement in 1959, Bert Huey was employed as a general agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
Pat Schuback, public affairs specialist at the Selective Service in Arlington, Virginia, said there were several letters similar to the one sent to Bert Huey that were delivered to other deceased people.
He said there was an error in data passed to the SSS from the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles. Schuback said driver’s license information is sometimes shared by some states with the Selective Service.
“First, we are sorry if these letters have evoked sadness for any families,” Schuback said. “This is not a typical occurrence, and it is regrettable. The good news, however, is that government works.”
Schuback said the Selective Service is considering sending follow-up letters to the families explaining the error. He said the error was caught after several had been sent out.
Jan T. McKnight, community relations coordinator at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, briefly explained what happened.
“A data processing error occurred with information sent to Selective Service,” McKnight said. “We have worked with Selective Service to address the issue. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have created.”
The Hueys said they would like to know what they should do. Schuback said there is no need to respond to the erroneous letter.
“Do I really have to fill out the form and return it?” Check Huey asked. “Maybe the Selective Service can come for a visit and I will take them to Denison Cemetery and introduce them to my grandfather at his grave site.”
Funny, but sad
The Hueys can laugh now at the situation, but they were clearly upset that the government didn’t keep better records.
“Come and get him,” Mrs. Huey said.
The letter signed by SSS Director Lawrence G. Romo, instructs Bert Huey to register online or by telephone.
“If you believe you are not required to register, complete Section B and provide supporting evidence,” the letter states. “And return it within 10 days. Our objective is to register you, not to have you prosecuted.”
Chuck Huey leaned back in his chair and smiled.
“I really wish my grandfather was around,” he said. “He would straighten this out in a hurry.”