Viral Facebook Post Sparks Massive Turn-Out to Honor 'Unclaimed Soldier' Ahead of Veterans Day

Last week, heading into the Veterans Day weekend, I saw a Facebook post from a Wooster, Ohio, radio station asking the community to pay their respects to a Vietnam veteran who was being laid to rest at the Western Reserve National Cemetary. The vet, William Louis Wright, died on October 15 with no known family.

"Tomorrow, Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 9 am at the Rittman National Cemetery, 10175 Rawiga Rd. Seville, OH," WQKT radio announced on Facebook. "A Vietnam Veteran with no family is being laid to rest. The Triple Nickel who does the services for the National cemetery is asking that anyone who can adopt this man as a family member please attend. Please don’t let this serviceman be forgotten on this Veteran’s Day weekend."

The national cemetery also announced the service for Wright:

The Facebook posts were shared thousands of times and the tight-knit community in Wayne County, where I'm proud to call home, turned out in droves at the veterans' cemetery in Seville, Ohio, population 2400, to honor a man who served our country honorably. According to a Facebook post from Autumnwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, "Thousands of community members, fellow veterans, and military service men and women showed up" to pay respects to Wright. "I am so humbled by the thoughtfulness of everyone that has come together today," wrote a representative from the rehab center. "Godspeed, Mr. Wright. We are your family." (I'm bawling my eyes out as I write this and I suspect many of you are as well.)

A local fire department posted more pictures from the cemetery:

An obituary posted online described what's known about Wright:

On Tuesday, October 15, 2019, Louis William Wright, age 72, of Coitsville Twp., OH passed away at home.  He was born in Youngstown, OH on January 18, 1947.

Louis joined the United States Air Force on November 22, 1966 and served one tour in Vietnam at Son Nhut Air Base, which was a Republic of Vietnam Air Force facility.  His awards included the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal.

Burial with full military honors was held at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 0930 with over 1200 in attendance.

According to the Beacon Journal, "Traffic was backed up outside the cemetery entrance on Rawiga Road from the north and south shortly before the 9:30 a.m. service," compelling Mark Polen, director of the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, to apologize for the delay, "which was due to the outstanding turnout and not the dreary weather."

“I’m overwhelmed. This is beautiful,” Polen told the newspaper.

"A representative for the cemetery said staff believed it was the largest attendance for a committal service at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery since it opened in 2000. He cited the spread of the cemetery’s Facebook post for a lot of the attention," the Beacon Journal reported.

You can watch the moving ceremony here:

The funeral announcement credited the following for ensuring Wright received a proper burial at the national cemetery:

Some of those who helped to make this service possible include: Theresa Gaetano, Investigator and the staff of the Mahoning County Coroner's Office, the staff of Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, the Medina County Marine Corps Detachment, the 555th Honors Detachment and all the Veteran Organizations that participated in and helped to raise awareness of Mr. Wright's Military Honors Service.

"But those who should be thanked most, are all of you who felt compelled to attend the funeral of a man you never met, a man who so long ago took an oath to defend and who honorably served our county during its most protested war," the notice concluded. "May this be an example of the respect deserved by all the men and women who sacrificed for our great nation."

Amen to that.

The American War Library says that out of the 2-3 million GIs who served in Vietnam between 1954 and 1975 (the total number is disputed), only around 610,000 are still alive. And according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, only 389,292 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II remain with us.

Mr. Wright's obituary suggests paying tribute to the veteran by making donations in his honor to your local veteran's organization. And, it should go without saying, take some time today to thank the veterans in your life for their service and devotion to our country. Do it every chance you get, not just on Veterans Day.