Bank policy frustrates grieving family

HEMET, Calif. Navy Corpsman Marc Retmier was the 500th Californian to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had dreams of coming home to Hemet to become a doctor.

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But now his family says a controversy involving a bank and his bereavement check is adding an insult to their tragedy.

The family of 19-year-old Navy Medic Marc Retmier told Eyewitness News they were stunned when they told by their bank branch manager that they would have to wait nearly two weeks before they could have access to their son's bereavement funds -- money they needed to pay for his funeral services.

The family says the two $50,000 checks from the U.S. Treasury could have been verified with a phone call. However, according to the Retmiers, the Hemet branch of Downey Savings and Loan refused to budge.

"He did what he believed in doing," said Joy Retmier, Marc's mother. "And they said he was the best of the best, and I believe that. And I love him very much and miss him."

A grieving mother speaking of her son. Navy Corpsman Marc Alan Retmier volunteered in January for service in Afghanistan as a Navy medic.

On June 18, 2008, he died in a rocket attack and became the 500th soldier from California to die since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One day after his death, his parents, devastated and distraught by the news, received two bereavement checks from the U.S. military.

Determined to give their son the funeral he deserved, they tried to cash the checks at the Downey Savings and Loan branch they had banked with for 10 years.

It was then that they were told that the check would be put on hold until July 1, days after the June 25 funeral service they were planning.

"I have cried and cried over my son's loss, and they have just made it worse. They made me worry that I wouldn't be able to get the money to bury my son," said Joy Retmier.

"Downey Savings should be ashamed of themselves for what they did," said Dale Powers, Marc Retmier's grandfather. "And I hope they will never make anyone else suffer what we had to endure, because of their insensitivity to us."

Still angry about the experience, the Retmiers hired attorney Gloria Allred, hoping to get all banks and savings-and-loans to change their policy on check holds so no other grieving military family will have to face such an experience.

"This cannot continue. Just the stress of the shock of the loss of their loved one is enough. But then to have the stress of, 'How are we going to pay to bury our son?' This is just totally unacceptable," said Gloria Allred, the Retmiers' lawyer.

Eyewitness News contacted the assistant manager of the Hemet branch of Downey Savings. She would not comment.

Eyewitness News contacted the corporate offices of Downey Savings. In an statement, a spokesperson for the company wrote:

"Downey Savings is saddened by the loss of Marc Retmier. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. As a brave soldier from our local community, he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. We have repeatedly communicated our sympathies to his family. Downey Savings' check hold policy conforms with federal banking regulations and industry practices. Downey Savings offered to release the funds immediately upon verification of the funds. This was explained in detail to the family. Mr. Retmier's family declined the Bank's offer. We sincerely regret any misunderstanding this situation may have caused. -- Elizabeth Stover Corporate Marketing & PR, Downey Savings and Loan Association, F.A."

The Retmiers eventually went elsewhere and cashed the checks at a credit union.


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