Central Texas cemetery invites public to veteran's funeral

A central Texas cemetery is turning a sad story into a happier ending. The staff of Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery is extending an invitation to anyone in the area to attend a funeral for an unaccompanied veteran Monday. A United States Air Force veteran, Joseph Walker, will be laid to rest at 10:00 A.M. with full military honors. As no next of kin is in the picture, a representative of the Veterans Land Board will accept the American flag on the veteran’s behalf. The Veterans Land Board runs the cemetery.

An invitation to the public to attend this funeral is based on the sentiment that no veteran should be buried alone. The cemetery extended the invitation on their Facebook page.

We have the distinct honor to provide a full military burial for unaccompanied United States Air Force Veteran Joseph Walker on MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. If you have the opportunity, please come out and attend. We do NOT leave Veterans behind 🇺🇸

The cemetery staff has been unable to locate any family members, and that is why the call has been put out to the community in Killeen, Texas. Walker served in the U.S. Air Force between September 1964 and September 1968. Lots of people have jumped in to guarantee the word gets outs and the Vietnam veteran isn’t buried alone, from politicians to national media figures.

Funerals for unaccompanied veterans happen more frequently than you might think. Often members of local veterans groups attend the funerals.

Since 2000, Dignity Memorial and other funeral homes in more than 30 cities have organized about 3,000 funerals for soldiers, sailors and Marines who died alone, but still deserved a dignified funeral and burial, said Jeff Berry, Dignity’s general manager in Knoxville.

Soldiers Arnold M. Klechka, 71, and Wesley Russell, 76, and Marine Charles B. Fox, 60, were laid to rest in a service attended by about 700 people at West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in Memphis on Thursday. There was a gun salute, and a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.”

The process to hold these funerals involves various local, state and national agencies. Sadly, many of these veterans are homeless and relatives that may be out there are unwilling to come forward.

Berry said the process usually begins with county medical examiners or local coroners, who contact state or national veterans’ cemeteries with names of people whose bodies have gone unclaimed. They typically were either homeless or had no surviving relatives to claim them.

And some have had surviving family members who did not want to claim them.

Memorial services are publicized through news outlets, veterans’ groups like the American Legion, or social media. Honor Guard and other active military members attend, but it’s the strangers who come out of respect for the military and the dead who bring dignity to the occasion.

For the funeral of Walker, a local motorcycle group is rallying its members to attend.

A member of Wind Therapy Freedom Riders is also encouraging the public to attend.

“Let’s show our respects to an American Veteran,” said Luis Rodriguez.

The group of bikers will meet at Rudy’s BBQ off I-35 in Round Rock and take off to the burial site at 9 a.m

Stories like this that honor America’s veterans, especially at the end of their lives, are a welcome change from the constant stream of 24/7 news. Rest in Peace, Joseph Walker.