An Air Force veteran in Texas died alone, then thousands attended his funeral

Click to play video: 'Thousands of strangers show up to Air Force veteran’s funeral'
Thousands of strangers show up to Air Force veteran’s funeral
When an Air Force veteran passed away without any family or friends, thousands of strangers in Texas came together to give him a proper military funeral – Jan 29, 2019

As a funeral was held by the military in Texas for an Air Force veteran who died alone, thousands of strangers showed up to ensure he wouldn’t be laid to rest alone.

Joseph Walker, born in 1946, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1968 during part of the Vietnam War, but following his honourable discharge, little is known what happened to him.

His obituary at All Faiths Funeral and Cremation Services reads that Walker was “called by Our Heavenly Father” on Nov. 19, though it does not say his rank.

A wake and a funeral was held by All Faiths last month, but in January a state agency put out a notice after being unable to reach Walker’s family.

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“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,” the notice read on Facebook. “If you have the opportunity, please come out and attend. We do not leave veterans behind.”

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As a result of the post, thousands of people showed up to give Walker a proper sendoff.

In part, it was due to people sharing the post to other groups. Luis Rodriguez passed the information to a motorbike riding club he belongs to, as well as a local news station.

Veteran Joseph Walker is pictured in this undated photo. His funeral was held Jan. 28 and thousands attended after a call from the military to have some people attend so he wouldn’t be laid to rest alone. CBS News

A report by ABC News affiliate KVUE pushed the word further.

“[It] took off like fire. Next thing you know we’re sitting here with thousands,” he told ABC News.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, CNN anchor Jake Tapper and Rep. John Carter all shared details of the funeral as well.

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On Monday, the roads into and around the cemetery were bumper-to-bumper, with cars backing up to a nearby highway.

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Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody estimated more than 5,000 people arrived, CNN reports.

“Today, we’re not strangers, we’re family,” said one man, who did not provide his name. “I don’t have a whole lot of information but it doesn’t matter, because once upon a time, like a lot of us other vets, he signed a blank cheque for our nation.”

Freedom Riders, a motorcycle club, members of veteran organizations and hundreds of law enforcement representatives attended, but so did people from all over the country, according to Rodriguez.

WATCH: Veterans thankful thousands attended funeral of vet who died alone in Texas

Click to play video: 'Veterans thankful thousands attended funeral of vet who died alone in Texas'
Veterans thankful thousands attended funeral of vet who died alone in Texas

Video from the ceremony, taken a short time after the funeral began, shows three planes flying over the service — an apparent memorial flyover.

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“We all served, we all share that common bond and it shows you just how strong that bond is,” Col. Charles Drouillard, with the 3rd Air Support Operations Group, told CBS News. “We organized the guys the best we could in 48 hours over the weekend. We are lucky to get enough guys together — part of the Air Force contingent — and honour our fellow veteran.”

Once the ceremony was over, people walked to Walker’s casket to lay their hands upon it and say prayers for him.

WATCH: A U.S. veteran died alone, thousands attended his funeral

Click to play video: 'A U.S. veteran died alone, thousands attended his funeral'
A U.S. veteran died alone, thousands attended his funeral

The cemetery started providing burials for veterans since the “Unaccompanied Veterans” program was established in 2015, which ensures all veterans receive a military burial service.

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Douglas Gault with the cemetery said he was the one to receive the folded flag on behalf of walker at the end of the ceremony.

“It was an honour,” Douglas Gault with the cemetery said. “You could feel chills down the body because I’m a veteran, too, a 30-year veteran, so it felt good to receive the flag on behalf of Joseph Walker.”

And thanks to the media attention and the social media post, Walker was also able to be sent off by his own family. The military told ABC News they were able to locate two family members who attended the funeral.

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