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Thousands attend funeral of Air Force veteran with no family


Cars backed up for miles as strangers gathered to honor the life and service of Joseph Walker

John Moore/Getty Images

Air Force veteran Joseph Walker was laid to rest at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery on Monday. No one was initially expected to attend because officials were not able to locate any surviving family members.

But thousands of well-wishers gathered to honor the unaccompanied veteran's life after details of the service went viral over the weekend.

Walker served in the Air Force from September 1964 to September 1968. He passed away due to natural causes at the age of 72.

What are the details?

On Friday, the Texas Veterans Land Board issued a news release announcing the Vietnam veteran's burial, saying that "if no next-of-kin presents themselves," a board representative would "accept the United States flag on Walker's behalf."

Local station KVUE-TV reported that Walker might be buried without attendees at the gravesite, and CNN's Jake Tapper spread the news via Twitter — with thousands retweeting details of the service slated to be held in Killeen at 10 a.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R) also tweeted news of the service, and encouraged his fellow Texans to attend.

How did it go?

Nearly an hour and a half before the ceremony started, NBC News correspondent Janet Shamlian tweeted out a photo showing "a line of cars stretching for miles to the funeral."

The service was officiated by Marc George of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, who said during the ceremony, "Today, we're not strangers; today, we are family. This is our brother, Joseph Walker."

Deputy director for Texas State Veterans Cemeteries Eric Brown told KCEN-TV that the number of people who attended the service was estimated to be more than 2,000 people.

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