Huge crowd turns out for veteran who had no family to attend his funeral
An amazing story from Killeen, Texas, where a lonely veteran died in November of cancer and was to be buried with only a few staff members of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery present at the funeral. Joseph Walker had no known family or friends to witness his burial, so he was declared an "unaccompanied veteran."
Then something remarkable happened.
Officials at the cemetery say they knew very little about Walker's life. It's possible he has a brother living in Texas, the cemetery said. But despite the long delay between Walker's death and his burial, no one had come forward on his behalf.
"If you have the opportunity, please come out and attend," the cemetery told its followers on social media. "We do NOT leave Veterans behind."
Local TV news station KVUE picked up the call, as did motorcycle clubs and other media, including CNN's Jake Tapper.
When the time of Walker's funeral arrived on Monday, news crews captured the moment as uniformed pallbearers bore his coffin into a covered plaza at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery.
One attendee put the number of people who turned out at more than 1,000. The crowd extended far beyond the plaza's rows of folding chairs, out onto the pavement where dozens of rows of people stood quietly in the sunshine. Photos showed that the road leading into the cemetery was clogged with vehicles bearing people who wanted to be there for Walker.
Killeen, Texas: A line of cars stretching for miles to attend the funeral of an Air Force Veteran with no family.. after fears he would be buried with no one attending. pic.twitter.com/IC5z7IlDjh— Janet Shamlian (@JanetShamlian) January 28, 2019
The reverence and respect the American people show toward veterans should be matched by the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. This is not always the case. While there are many dedicated employees of the VA – doctors, nurses, staff – there is a lack of empathy at the highest levels of V.A. management. The president has worked to correct this deficiency, but the problem appears to be institutional and not easily or quickly fixed.
Meanwhile, Joseph Walker was laid to rest in front of hundreds of strangers who didn't know him in life but honored his service in death. His eulogy was given by the president of the cemetery association and included this from the NPR reporter: "'Today, we give him honors,' George said, before leading a prayer in remembrance of Walker – a man whom no one apparently knew, but whom no one wanted to forget."