The call went out over social media this weekend: Joseph Walker, an airman who served from 1964 to 1968, had passed away. But the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, Texas, could find no family members to attend his burial there Monday.
So the cemetery hoped the community might make sure Walker, who was 72 when he died last Nov. 19, was not buried alone.
“If you have the opportunity, please come out and attend,” the cemetery said on its Facebook page last Thursday. “We do NOT leave Veterans behind.”
The word spread quickly. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was one of many who encouraged people to attend in tweets and other online posts that went viral.
A Vietnam War veteran with few known family members was buried at Omaha National Cemetery in Nebraska on Tuesday, flanked by hundreds of attendees who had never met him.
And when Walker’s funeral began, an estimated 2,000 complete strangers had shown up to pay their respects to a veteran who they had never met. NBC journalist Janet Shamlian shared a picture of “a line of cars stretching for miles” to attend.
The news coverage of Walker’s potentially-unaccompanied funeral also apparently alerted his daughter. The local Fox affiliate in Austin reported that Karina Erickson, a spokeswoman for the Texas General Land Office, said Walker’s daughter drove into town after seeing reports, although she only arrived at the end of the ceremony. Erickson said she was presented the folded flag that was on her father’s casket.
“We were able to reunite the family today,” Erickson told Austin’s Fox 7.
A speaker at the service said it is unclear what Walker’s rank was. He was buried with full military honors.