A Vietnam veteran who died without any known friends or family was treated to a hero’s funeral this week, with strangers stepping up to the plate to make sure he was properly honored.
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Glenn Emerson Cook, 70, who was laid to rest Tuesday at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, was an Army veteran had no known loved ones, but that didn’t stop dozens from showing up to celebrate him.
Cook reportedly left at least part of his estate to The Backstoppers, an organization that helps spouses and children of cops, firefighters, and EMTs.
When the group found out he had no known family members, leaders reached out to Calvin Whitaker, owner of Michel Funeral Hope in St. Louis.
Whitaker, who said he couldn’t even locate a photo of Cook, stepped in to organize a funeral for him and invited the community to come celebrate his life.
“[Veterans have] given so much of their lives that this is just a small thank you for them that they shouldn’t be left alone at the end of their life,” he told KSDK-TV.
Dozens of people — including fellow veterans and first responders — showed up, some getting teary-eyed as they reflected on Cook’s life. The Patriot Guard Riders, a group that attends military funerals across the U.S., also led a motorcycle procession, with scores of vehicles taking part.
Whitaker said it is always amazing to see so many strangers attend these funerals to honor people they have never met.
“It’s always surprising when people show up for someone that they don’t know,” he said.
This isn’t the first time Whitaker has acted in such a kind and compassionate way.
He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his funeral home has, in recent years, held funerals for nine homeless veterans with no known family members.
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