When the call went out for the public to attend the funeral of Air Force veteran Joseph Walker, it quickly went viral through the means of social media.
Thanks to that exposure — the Herald’s Facebook post alone was shared more than 1,400 times — a funeral that members of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery thought no one would attend instead saw at least 2,000 people from across the state of Texas attend.
So many people showed up, that countless others couldn’t even make it into the cemetery for the service. One of whom — I’ve heard through the grapevine — was one of Walker’s actual family members. She did, however, manage to make it in after the funeral, where she was presented with the U.S. flag that draped his coffin.
Despite any drama which may have occurred between the family and the funeral home, Walker was given the military burial with full honors he deserved. And for that, I’m thankful.
The funeral was absolutely amazing. So many people saw that he may have been interred with no family or friends available, that Texans from across the state traveled here to ensure he was represented.
Everyone I have talked to who attended was blown away by the sheer number of attendees. There were people from Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and all the cities in between who came to make sure Walker wasn’t buried alone.
There is one thing about Texas — we love our veterans and take pride in showing it. We’re not going to let them go unburied without the honors they deserve.
The Texas General Land Office, which runs the four state veteran cemeteries through the Veterans Land Board, began publicizing funerals such as this in 2015 when the current land commissioner, George P. Bush, took over. Since Bush is a U.S. Navy veteran himself, he refused to allow our unclaimed brothers and sisters to just sit in a cooler for years and began pushing for the public to help bury them with full military honors.
Since then, there have been nearly 100 unclaimed veteran burials conducted at the state’s four cemeteries, according to the GLO. The GLO accepts the bodies of these veterans when there is either no family to set up the funerals or when a family member cannot be reached by the organization (funeral home, nursing home and such) to get it done.
While the unaccompanied veteran program, to date, has not seen anywhere near the outpouring of support as on Monday, I’m looking forward to a time when every unaccompanied veteran sees a turnout of thousands to the service. Whether they served two years or 30, in combat or not, they all deserve to be laid to rest with dignity and honor.
David A. Bryant is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at email@example.com or 254-501-7554.