This past week a funeral home in Sarasota, Florida, invited the public to attend the funeral of a veteran who left behind no living relatives.
The invitation quickly went viral, resulting in over one thousand people showing up to honor the life of Edward Pearson. Pearson enlisted in the army in 1962 and served until 1964 when he was honorably discharged.
He died peacefully at age 80 on August 31, at his home in Naples, Florida.
The ceremony was held at Sarasota National Cemetary, where the honor guard folded an American flag on the casket, while thousands stood by.
“No comrade should ever be left behind,” an elderly veteran said during the funeral, according to Fox News.
Melanie Lynch, who drove from Ruskin, Florida to be there for the funeral, said, “It just touched my heart. I just knew that I had to be here.”
“He served his country, I’m sure very proudly,” she added. “I think that it’s appropriate that we honor our heroes. I only wish I had a chance to know him when he was alive.”
After Pearson passed, a social worker approached Legacy Options Funeral and Cremation Services about funeral services, which is when they decided to open the funeral to the public.
“One of our ways of giving back to the community of Naples is we offer free funeral services to any indigent or homeless veterans,” Michael Hoyt, the funeral director said, according to CNN.
After Pearson passed away, one of his neighbors, who was also a veteran, asked for his discharge papers, in order to bury him in the Sarasota National Cemetary.
“We reached out to some of the local veterans’ organizations in the county and we said we were afraid that no one would come except for us and the military honors,” Hoyt explained.
“We put a small notice in the Naples Daily News stating that he had passed away and there was no family that we knew of,” Hoyt said. “It was really enlightening to see social media react in such a positive way.'”
The obituary quickly went viral, with well-known Twitter personalities sharing it, including CNN reporter Jake Tapper.
“He has NO immediate family to come to his funeral, so the public is invited to attend,” Tapper wrote on Twitter.
Gwen Graham, a former member of congress, also shared the obituary, writing, “He has no family to attend his funeral. We can be his family.”