SALT LAKE CITY — What began as an unaccompanied burial on Monday for a man who reportedly had no living family rapidly turned into a massive showing of community love and respect.
What happened: On Jan. 25, the Killeen Daily Herald reported that the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen would be conducting an unaccompanied veteran burial for Joseph Walker.
- Walker, a United States Air Force veteran who served from September 1964 to September 1968, died at age 72 and no family members were expected to attend his funeral.
- According to the Killeen Daily Herald, CTSVC staff coordinated with the Fort Hood Casualty Office to ensure Walker was given full military honors and had a representative at his funeral to accept the United States flag on Walker’s behalf if no next-of-kin attended.
- Members of the Central Texas community were encouraged to attend his funeral in the Herald and on social media.
The response: After hearing reports that no family members were expected to show at Walker’s funeral, thousands of individuals from across the state of Texas showed up Monday to pay their respects.
- According to cemetery staff, at least 2,000 people, many of them veterans from North Texas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, came to stand in for Walker’s family.
- The funeral was postponed 20 minutes to allow for people to arrive. According to the Killeen Daily Herald, an attendee was overheard saying he’d walked a mile from where he was parked to get to the burial.
- According to NPR, Marc George, a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, officiated at the funeral. “Today we are not strangers; today, we are family,” George said. “This is our brother, Joseph Walker.”
Karina Erickson, Texas General Land Office communications director, told the Killeen Daily Herald, “This is something you kind of hear about on the news, and you don’t really expect to be a part of it. You don’t expect the community to turn out in such numbers for someone that they don’t know.”
“I thought this was a great way to honor a fallen veteran,” retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Will Thomas, who attended the event, told the Killeen Daily Herald.
“They did a great job in coming out — especially putting it out on the news and on Facebook, inspiring more people to come out and support him. That’s what we’re about — we’re all veterans and we should be here for one another.”