A Vietnam War veteran with few known family members was buried at Omaha National Cemetery in Nebraska on Tuesday, flanked by hundreds of attendees who had never met him.
When it was first reported by The Omaha World-Herald that 73-year-old Army Pfc. Stanley Stoltz may be put to rest alone, a wave of more than 400 fellow veterans and civilians decided to attend his funeral and show their support.
“This is the first time we’ve had this kind of crowd,” Chaplain Roy Edwards told The World-Herald before the ceremony. “Most get six to eight cars, 15 at most. This is hundreds.”
The rallying cry began with a funeral notice published by the Omaha-based paper.
The director of the funeral home arranging Stoltz’s burial told The World-Herald that he was initially told Stoltz had no living family when he died on Nov. 18.
That sad reality went viral, with CNN’s Jake Tapper amplifying the situation by bringing it to the attention of Nebraska’s residents.
Members of Stoltz’s hospice managed to attend as well, as did a few family members, but the outpouring of support wasn’t missed.
Stoltz was born on May 29, 1945, and grew up on a farm in Iowa. He had three brothers and a sister.
He was drafted into the Vietnam War, but what friends did show up to his funeral don’t remember him speaking about his time in the service, according to The World-Herald.
When he returned from the war, Stoltz worked around Iowa and married twice. His first wife died of cancer and his second marriage ended in divorce, The World-Herald reported.
Stoltz had no children, and, like many veterans, not much is known about his time in Vietnam.
The local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America also attended the funeral. Chapter president Dennis Schissel told The World-Herald that funerals for veterans of that controversial war typically draw between 150 and 200 people, many of whom are veterans themselves.
“We come together for something like this,” he told the paper. “He was one of us at this time.”
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer