This faithful servant always put others before himself. His community just returned the favor.
What happens when a World War II veteran passes away and has no family to provide him a proper burial? Well in this small Massachusetts town, hundreds of residents made sure he was honored as he was laid to rest.
In a relatively small town of Taunton, more than 100 community members had made their way into a small church to honor a fallen World War II veteran. While the man had passed without immediate family by his side, the community who gathered to send him off acted like he was a part of their own family.
On November 22, every pew in the West Congregational Church was filled with neighbors, first responders, and military veterans who wanted to remember the life of 99-year-old U.S. Army veteran Arthur Schroeder, according to Military.com.
Acting Mayor Donald Cleary was present at the church, showing his support of a man he admittedly didn’t know personally.
While addressing the service, he stated: “I may not have known Arthur, but the outpouring of support for him here today speaks volumes to his character.”
Thanks to the outstanding work done by Micaila Britto and Jeff Riccitelli of the Raynham and Taunton Veteran’s Departments, several groups across the city and state were made aware to Schroeder’s passing and had wanted to make sure that he received the honor he deserved at his funeral.
Micaila Britto was simply pleased with the massive response that had come when they announced the services for Schroeder.
“So many veterans organizations reached out and I’m so grateful that we’re here to represent him as he goes on,” she said.
Schroeder, who was born February 20, 1920, had served in World War II from 1942 to 1945 as a supply clerk and tank driver, as reported by CBS Boston. When his wife, Ann, had passed away in 2008, he maintained living independently. Like clockwork, he drove himself to church, sitting in the same pew every Sunday morning. At the service, a memorial photo and Bible were in his place.
Reverend Ami Dion remembered the veteran and dedicated church member fondly.
“Arthur was a beloved member here and many of us are taking his death very hard. He was such a constant presence that we never really considered what it would be like without him here,” she said.
Prior to the service, numerous military members had filed down the aisles and saluted Schroeder’s flag-draped coffin. Roughly an hour after the salute, veterans and local police stood side by side as his casket was placed gently inside the hearse.
Schroeder, who served in the Pacific and received a Bronze Star, had left quite an impression on many lives in his community before his passing. With a town just shy of sixty thousand people, the amount who collected and remembered interactions with him were simply telling of a man who lived a wonderful and kind life.
Mayor-Elect Shaunna O’Connell thought that the show of appreciation from the community was one that Schroeder was deserving of.
“For someone like Art who was so giving and kind and had such distinguished service to our country and lived through so many historic moments, we wanted to make sure Art had a service filled with people and love and the recognition and honor he deserves.”
The day before he died, Dion said she made sure the veteran whom she thought of as a father knew how much he was loved and appreciated by the community. She recalled offering some words of condolence toward Schroeder:
“I told him how much I love him and that I would miss him terribly but we would be OK and would see him again and Ann was waiting for him and his best friends were waiting for him. He will never be far from my heart. They don’t make them like that anymore.”
Following the service, Schroeder was laid to rest next to his wife, whom he lost years before, at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne. A proper send off for a proper hero.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support for heroes that have passed away without family to give them a proper burial.
In January of 2019 countless individuals came out to show their respects for a U.S. Airforce Veteran in Kileen, Texas. Joseph Walker, who served in the Air Force from 1964 to 1968 (Vietnam Era), died at the age of 74.
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When no next of kin came forward to claim his remains, The Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery made a request on social media to the public stating anyone was welcome to attend the funeral and pay their respects.
Again, the post went viral, and even major networks like Fox News picked up the story and spread the news that this veteran needed individuals there while he was laid to rest with full military honors.
In February of this year, three veterans who passed had no family or friends step forward to claim their remains. Over a hundred individuals came out to pay their resects for the three veterans Alberto Vasquesz, 67, Gil Vargas, 65, and John Flynn, 61, at a cemetery in San Antonio after a Veterans organization stepped up to pay for their funerals.
Most recently, at the start of September of this year, when no one came forward to claim the remains of U.S. Air Force veteran Lyndon Badgett, the funeral home posted on social media in hopes of finding someone come forward for him. Scores of individuals shared the post, and after going viral, hundreds showed up to pay their respects to the veteran.
While social media has crept into so many aspects of our lives, and some would argue it has taken over our lives, there are slight glimmers of hope that it can still be used for good things. In these cases, honoring those who have sacrificed something for our country.
As the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery stated:
“We Leave No Veteran Behind!”
Stories like these give hope for humanity as a whole, people can still put aside all the differences and show up for something meaningful and that is a bigger thing than any one individual.
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