Joseph Walker’s funeral on Monday was attended by hundreds of people who learned there would be no family members at his service.
The U.S. Air Force veteran died in November of natural causes at age 72, according to NPR. The Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery announced plans for the funeral last week but said it expected only staff members to attend.
“If you have the opportunity, please come out and attend,” the cemetery said on Twitter Monday morning. “We do NOT leave Veterans behind.”
Relatives contacted officials after seeing heightened media coverage on Walker. He was classified as an “unaccompanied veteran,” because no family had come forward after he died.
“We are grateful that Mr. Walker’s next-of-kin presented themselves after the funeral, and we were able to present Mr. Walker’s flag to them,” said Texas General Land Office official Karina Erickson.
“Today, we’re not strangers; today, we are family,” said Marc George of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, who officiated the service in Killeen
An estimated 1,000-plus people attended the funeral, according to an attendee. News crews captured uniformed pallbearers carrying Walker’s casket.
“All eligible Veterans are now interred with honor and dignity, regardless of where they may have found themselves in life,” said Erickson.