Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday to pay their final respects and to honor Wayne Wilson, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Wilson, 67, died unexpectedly May 28 during surgery to fix his heart defibrillator and had no close family left.
Zeline Love told the newspaper she came to honor, not only Wilson, but her brother, too, who died in Vietnam when he was 19.
“This is overwhelming. It’s a crowd of witnesses,” Love said. “You wouldn’t have had this 50 years ago. This is amazing. I’m proud of the USA,” she said.
Others said they came to thank Wilson for his service and the pastor officiating the service thanked the large crowd.
“You refused to let a warrior be buried alone, Pastor Mike Smith said.
An expected small service for Vietnam veteran Wayne Wilson in Niles became much more after Brown Funeral Home put out a public plea. Hundreds attended, refusing 'to let a warrior be buried alone.' photos via @MLCaterina. Full story here: https://t.co/bo4tqz6UQL pic.twitter.com/SYUBe7v9Xr
— South Bend Tribune (@SBTribune) July 17, 2019
It was an intern at Brown Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Niles that helped coordinate the burial services.
Drew Mickel told the Tribune he was "amazed" by the turnout.
Several friends of Wilson’s told Mickel that the vet deserved military funeral honors, so Mickel contacted several American Legion posts and officials there organized the funeral.
One of Wilson’s closest friends, Charlotte Andrews, said he “had a heart of gold” and deserved the military burial, but she admitted it was overwhelming.
"None of us expected this," she told the Tribune.
Andrews said Wilson would have been in tears if he could have seen the tribute. All the people that came to pay their respects were “friends he just didn’t know were there.”