NILES, Mich. (CBS Local) — Only a handful of people were expected for the funeral of a Vietnam veteran who had no living family members. Instead, some 3,000 people packed Silverbrook Cemetery in Miles, Michigan, to pay their respects.
Word had spread about the unique circumstances surrounding the death of Wayne Wilson, 67, and so did the support.
“Very kind and gentle, loved people,” said Morgan Frend, who worked at Silverbrook Cemetery, where Wilson would visit his fiance’s grave.
“I felt like just being able to talk with him every now and then that’s what he was looking for,” Frend told CBS affiliate WSBT. “He was looking for some companionship somewhere.”
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
However, many of the mourners admitted that had never met Wilson.
“I wanted to pay respects but, especially since, unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet him in life,” said Karla Dennis. “It made me think how many others are out there that aren’t being remembered maybe at funeral services.”
Wilson served six years in the Army, earning full military honors.
Army vet John Tengelitsch the amount of support for Wilson touched him.
“During the Vietnam era when he was alive, people spit on us,” said Tengelitsch. “They didn’t like us so most the time you walked around without your uniform; now, the table is turning. Now they are realizing what we went through.”