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1,200 Perfect Strangers Attend Funeral Of An Unknown Army Veteran

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Nearly 1,200 people attended the funeral of Army specialist James Douglas Beavers Thursday, yet none ever knew the Vietnam-era veteran.

Loyalty, duty, respect and honor are four of the Army’s core values, key traits every soldier is taught from day one in basic training. A massive group of 1,200 strangers exemplified these traits in a nondescript funeral home in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The funeral service was packed to the brim with complete strangers coming to honor a man who appears to have had no one else to pay him tribute.

Beavers was buried with full military honors in a Catholic service officiated by an Army chaplain and a local friar — his coffin surrounded by people who did not know anything about him.

“Even neighbors didn’t know much about him. He led a very private life. We don’t even have a photo of him,” says David McComb, president of the funeral home in which the burial took place, speaking to Task & Purpose. Mr. McComb provided the service when the local coroner’s office received no claim for Beavers’s body after placement of several ads in local newspapers and social media.

“Due to state law we have to wait a certain amount of time for friends or family to come forward to make arrangements and that never happened,” says McComb.

Beavers, who died at 74 on November 23, appears to have lived a solitary life. His death was unknown until a neighbor came across his body five days after the fact.

The man who nobody seemed to know, enlisted in the U.S. Army as a payroll clerk in 1963, according to the Task & Purpose report. He would go on to serve three years in the Army before his discharge, after which he spent three additional years in the Reserve.

Beavers was born an orphan in Charleston, West Virginia, according to Task & Purpose. His military service brought him to Berlin, Germany during the height of the Cold War when the city was partitioned among the West and former Soviet Union. After his time in the military, he settled in Marion, Indiana, according to the report.

Beavers, who appears to have left no survivors and was never married, had 1,200 people from veteran’s organizations, active military members and law enforcement attend his funeral. One veteran even traveled from Oklahoma to honor a brother in arms he never met.

“I don’t think it matters if you’re a new or old veteran. We need to get behind our military. I don’t care what age; we need to show we care,” local Indiana resident Jeff Keeling told Task & Purpose. He and his wife Mary both attended Beavers’s funeral.

“He’s not alone and we’re not strangers,” retired Air Force Master Sergeant Jimmy Urban, himself a Vietnam and Gulf war veteran told Task & Force, “Anybody that served is a brother. He’s not alone anymore.”

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