Joseph Walker, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, appeared set to be buried without relatives. But then social media helped mobilized guests to give him a massive send off.
However, members of Walker’s family claims that they were blindsided by the funeral.
“He’s not alone,” Dana Williams, Walker’s niece told Austin ABC affiliate KVUE. “He has two surviving brothers, and he also has a niece and a nephew, and my mother has six kids.
“It’s just very heartbreaking,” she added. “I’m very angry that our uncle was laid to rest again and none of his immediate family was there.”
Williams says that they hadn’t heard from the funeral home and their last communication was about payment. The funeral home says that they reached out to Walker’s brother and he never responded.
Joseph died of cancer in November at the age of 72 and the funeral home had tried in vain for weeks to reach any of his family members. Walker’s funeral was Monday at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Kileen, and there was a fear that he was at risk of being buried without anyone in attendance.
“We have the distinct honor to provide a full military burial for unaccompanied United States Air Force Veteran Joseph Walker on MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery,” the cemetery posted on Facebook. “If you have the opportunity, please come out and attend. We do NOT leave Veterans behind.”
With no family or loved ones answering the funeral home’s calls, Walker was classified as an “unaccompanied veteran.” The call immediately went viral with people around Texas and across the country mobilizing for Walker.
The story reached KVUE and was eventually tweeted out by local motorcycle clubs, Republican Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and CNN anchor Jake Tapper:
No one is expected to attend the funeral for Joseph Walker, who served in the US Air Force 1964-1968.
His funeral will take place Monday at 10 a.m. at the Central Texas State Cemetery.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 27, 2019
“Today, we’re not strangers; today, we are family, ” Marc George of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, who officiated the funeral told NPR. “This is our brother, Joseph Walker.”
Photos on social media showed the road to the cemetery was clogged with cars with people who wanted to be there for Walker. Unfortunately, it seems, Walker’s family wanted to be there for him, too. But they were not informed.
“I love my uncle and I miss him dearly,” she said. “I feel like we let him down because we were not there today.”