KILLEEN, Texas — The death of a U.S. Air Force veteran with no known family and whose Central Texas funeral was not expected to bring any visitors drew as an as 2,000 people on Monday.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush in a statement encouraged the public to attend the service for Joseph Walker at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
“If you have the opportunity, please come out and attend,” the cemetery wrote on Facebook. “We do NOT leave Veterans behind.”
At least 2,000 answered the call, according to the Killeen Daily Herald.
“It was put out that this veteran had no family or friends and we were called on to support him,” Staff Sgt. Brian Walters, a soldier with 48th Chemical Brigade, told the Daily Herald. “I think it’s our duty to support veterans in this kind of situation.”
Walker served four years in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
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
Walker’s rank in the Air Force is unknown, but he served irom 1964 to 1968. He died at the age of 72 due to natural causes.
“Today we are not strangers. Today we are family. I don’t have a whole lot of information but it doesn’t matter because once upon a time like a lot of other vets, he signed a blank check for our nation,” Marc George of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, said at the service/
The Daily Herald said Killeen police were directing traffic after the funeral, although it still took some attendees nearly an hour to leave the cemetery.
“It’s completely overwhelming,” said Karina Erickson, Texas General Land Office communications director. “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.
A spokeswoman for the Land Office told KVUE-TV in Austin that efforts began in 2015 to ensure a proper burial for “unaccompanied veterans.”
Prior to that, a veteran’s burial was up to the discretion of a county judge and could result in cremation and the remains being placed in storage.