Vietnam Veteran Stanley Stoltz died alone, with no living relatives to call family. A simple notice in the local paper, no more than 23 words, invited members of the public to attend his funeral.
Yet, when he was finally laid to rest, attendees at Stoltz’ funeral outnumbered the population of his hometown of Bennington, Nebraska.
At least 2,000 people showed up to honor the veteran as he was buried at Omaha National Cemetery on Nov. 27. The public notice has spread throughout social media, and attracted supporters from miles around.
According to WOWT-TV, the burial service was even late to start, just so latecomers wouldn’t miss it.
“Sorry for the delay. We weren’t expecting this outpouring of love and affection for one of our veterans,” one of the Omaha National Cemetery staffers said before the service.
Stoltz was 73 when he died and, according to the personal stories shared by the chaplain, loved people, and treated others better than he treated himself.
The outpouring of support drove many to tears. It was an emotional experience for anyone able to attend.
“No vet deserves to die alone. Thank God,” said Dick Harrington of Bellevue, about 30 minutes outside of Bennington. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”
“This is the kind of reception our Vietnam veterans deserved,” said Amy Douglas, one of Stoltz’ caregivers. “And the fact that he gets this kind of reception going home is fitting. It’s fitting.”
According to Fox News, Stoltz’ first wife died of cancer, and he had divorced from his second wife without any children. His parents and siblings had all passed, as well, and Stoltz was seemingly alone in his small Nebraskan town.
If only he could have seen just how many people now consider themselves friends because of him.
“Anyone would be honored,” caregiver Taylor Jackson said.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.