At the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia rests the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which holds the remains of one of many American soldiers who lost their life in World War One. Since 1921, Americans have come to the tomb to honor all of the unknown soldiers who lost their lives in foreign wars.
It’s a powerful testament to the depths of feelings human beings have regarding death and funeral rights. This November in Indianapolis, those same feelings brought almost a thousand citizens to the funeral of a total stranger, an 80-year-old U.S. veteran with no family to make funeral arrangements.
U.S. Marine Corp Veteran Billy C. Aldridge died at an Indianapolis nursing home in October, but the facility could find no record of family to contact. When no one came forward to arrange a funeral, local veterans groups and businesses stepped up to .
Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin with Indiana War Memorials delivered the eulogy, and the burial service at Memorial Park Cemetery included full military honors. About one thousand people showed up for the soldier’s funeral services.
It’s just the latest example of private citizens, veterans, and non-profits stepping up to provide dignified burials for unknown, anonymous, or unloved Americans.
“Any one of us can turn out to be one of the people who dies unknown or unloved,” says Ira Woods, President, OneWorld Memorials. “I think this alone is a big motivator. Let’s face it, there is more human compassion expressed and exhibited in the world than the news generally let’s on. When we can identify with a situation, it hits home. Just as we hope our passing will be handled with some dignity and recognition, many of us don’t want to see it happening to others. It’s very easy for us to identify with. This is especially true knowing someone has served their country and maybe paid the highest price, or ended up alone and unrecognized for their brave deeds.”
Also this November in Laredo, Texas, Jesus Segovia with the Laredo Veterans Coalition discovered the local city cemetery was running out of space for veterans. Segovia took it upon himself to provide new columbariums for the burial urns of his fellow veterans.
And in Fargo, North Dakota, a public health worker and local Episcopal church worked together to give a dignified burial to an unknown stranger whose cremation urn for ashes was found in an abandoned apartment. The urn had the name Adolph Scott on the bottom, but when no record of the man could be found, church members came together to give him the funeral he deserved.