There’s an unspoken creed within the military-veteran community: no veteran should ever be buried alone.
The U.S. military is a system designed to break its members of the individuality that defines Americans to create members of single team — a unit. This bond endures as veterans transition out of the service. It’s one of the defining characteristics of veteran life.
Nowhere else in life is this more true than in death. For those without family buried in Arlington Cemetery, the Arlington Ladies will make sure they aren’t alone. But Iowa-born Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz wasn’t going to Arlington and had no known family. Then, his obituary went viral.
Stoltz was 73 when he died on Nov. 18, 2018 in Bennington, Nebraska. His obituary in the Omaha World-Herald said that he had no family. Although he worked in Bennington, he spent the end of his life around medical caregivers. While it was eventually revealed that Stoltz had a brother and an ex-wife, hundreds of people who never knew the deceased came out to pay their last respects.
Unfortunately, Stoltz didn’t get to see the outpouring of respect and appreciation for his service that he and so many other Vietnam veterans sorely lacked upon returning home from the war.
“No vet deserves to die alone,” attendee Dick Harrington told WOWT-TV, the Omaha NBC affiliate. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”
Despite the frigid Nebraska weather, hundreds of people who never knew Stanley Stoltz — including many who have never met a Vietnam veteran or a veteran of any war — flooded Bennington to ensure he received the send off worthy of his service to their country.
The cemetery estimated that upwards of 2,000 people came to the funeral. The services were even delayed so stragglers to the event wouldn’t miss a moment. Traffic was backed up, bumper-to-bumper along Interstate 80 to give a final salute to a passing veteran.