Another unaccompanied veteran receives hero's sendoff at funeral

We’ve seen a few of these stories in the past year or so, and now another has shown up. If this is turning into a trend, I certainly hope that it continues to gain in popularity.

Robert Grala of Williamstown, New Jersey, was a veteran who served in the United States Army and served in Korea in the late sixties. Last week, at the age of 70, he passed away of natural causes alone in his home. A couple of friends and neighbors knew him, but a search by officials failed to locate any living relatives. It appeared that Mr. Grala would meet his final reward alone. But that’s when the local newspaper stepped in and put out the word as has been done for other unaccompanied veterans recently. Local veterans’ groups were contacted as well, determined that Grala would receive the honors due him. (Courier-Post)

Nearly 50 years after Robert Grala was stationed in Korea with the U.S. Army, the decorated serviceman died alone in Williamstown. Gloucester County’s veterans aren’t about to let Grala — a man awarded several military medals — to be buried without a final salute.

Gloucester County’s veterans’ groups are asking residents to join them at a Monroe cemetery Monday to honor Grala as he is laid to rest.

I suppose we should stop being surprised by this point because the milk of human kindness hasn’t dried up entirely in our country. That’s particularly true when it comes to our veterans. As the local CBS News outlet reported, the turnout was beyond impressive, with hundreds of people who had never met Robert Grala, along with a full military escort, showed up to see him off.

A United States Army veteran from New Jersey was laid to rest with full military honors on Monday. Hundreds of people who didn’t even know him attended the service.

“He had no family, he had nobody to say goodbye to him,” Joni Harrison, of Operation Yellow Ribbon, said.

Surrounded by complete strangers, Robert “Bob” Grala was honored at the Gloucester County Veterans Memorial Cemetery for his burial.

Here’s some video of the funeral from the local ABC News TV coverage.

It does my heart good to see stories like this. It’s an unfortunate fact that too many people outlive the rest of their relatives and wind up dying alone. Veterans are no exception, but expectations among the veterans community are higher for their final salutes. I will never, ever forget my father’s funeral. The family was there, of course, but the military showed up in force as well, along with members of both the VFW and the American Legion. Rifle volleys were fired, a pair of bugles played taps, one echoing the other from behind a small hill, and the flag was folded with care and placed in my mother’s lap. It’s how it’s done in the military community.

Bob Grala had no family left to see to these matters. But the community and the military stepped in to fill the void. And now another soldier’s journey has ended properly. Rest in peace, Robert Grala, and thank you for your service.