More than 1,000 people gathered in a church outside Indianapolis Tuesday to honor the life of a veteran with no known living family members, the Greenfield Daily Reporter reported.
Former Marine Cpl. Billy Aldridge, 80, had been living for over 10 years at an Indianapolis nursing home before he died last month. Aldridge enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1956, served as a supply man for almost four years, and spent two of those years in Okinawa, Japan.
When Aldridge passed away, the nursing home turned his body over to Legacy Cremation and Funeral Service, whose staff decided to plan a proper—and public— sendoff for a brave veteran.
Aldridge was memorialized with a standing-room only service at the Lawrence United Methodist Church in Lawrence, Ind. Hundreds lined the walls of the facility and its vestibule after all the seats were filled.
Paul Adams, a member of the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard, a group of former servicemen who attend over 50 veteran funerals annually, told the paper that despite the fact they do not personally know each veteran they memorialize, each funeral is very emotional for all of them.
Funeral service organizers called Aldridge “the unclaimed veteran” in their public invitation.
Reviewing Aldridge’s enlistment paperwork in the hopes of learning more about him, Brig. Gen. Stewart Goodwin learned that after the former Marine was honorably discharged, he moved to Indiana to care for his mother.
After his mother died in 1997, he lived alone until moving into the nursing home in 2004.
At the service, the Rev. Ron May said no matter how little was known about the man they were honoring, “In [enlisting], he said 'I will not live for myself alone. I will live, I will serve for others'.”