Hundreds of Strangers Attend Funeral of U.S. Veteran Who Died Alone at Nursing Home

Members of the military community paid their respects to Gerry Brooks, a Marine vet who died at the age of 86

<p>AP Photo/Patrick Whittle</p> Former U.S. Marine Gerry Brooks is laid to rest Thursday, June 20, 2024, at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.

AP Photo/Patrick Whittle

Former U.S. Marine Gerry Brooks is laid to rest Thursday, June 20, 2024, at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.
  • Gerry Brooks, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, died alone at a nursing home in May at the age of 86

  • After the director of the funeral home put out a call for attendees and pallbearers for his funeral, so many people responded that they actually had to turn some people away

  • Following the service, the Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services thanked everybody who attended, calling it "an incredible display of honor and respect!"

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who died alone last month in a Maine nursing home, just received a hero’s farewell attended by hundreds of people who didn’t even know him.

Gerry Brooks died in May at 86, and his funeral was held on Thursday, June 20, at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta, the Associated Press and CBS affiliate WABI reported.

Not much is known about Brooks, an Augusta resident, other than he was widowed and died shortly after he was admitted to a nursing home, according to Katie Riposta, the director of a funeral home that put the call out for attendees and pallbearers for Brooks’ funeral, per the AP.

Related: Veteran, 90, Was Working in the Heat on Memorial Day. Within a Day, Over $200K Was Raised So He Could Retire

Riposta added that Brooks’ next of kin did not come forward or claim his body. The funeral home’s initial notice about Brooks generated volunteers to the point where some had to be turned away to carry his casket.

Additionally, news about Brooks’ death spread on social media, reported WABI.

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At the funeral, Brooks received full military honors, The Guardian reported, noting that Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles escorted his hearse while members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars gave him a 21-gun salute.

Related: Strangers Help Veteran, 76, Who’s Been Living Out of His Car Since 2020 Fire Destroyed His Home

Jordan Elston, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, told WABI ahead of the funeral service that no military member should have a funeral alone. He called it heartwarming that the military community had come out to pay their respects to Brooks.

“No service member should have their final farewell by themself,” Elston said. “That’s something that we’re really passionate about and feel like especially being a fellow Marine on top of a Veteran, that he really needs somebody there for his final sendoff to show him that he is remembered, he is important to somebody.”

“We received a notice from our brothers down in Augusta that we had a Marine who passed with no family, and we wanted some presence at his funeral,” Donald Kozerow, a judge advocate of the Marine Corps League, told WABI.

Jim Roberts, a commander of the Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Belfast, called it an honor to rally around Brooks. “There’s so much negativity in the world,” he said, via the AP. “This is something people can feel good about and rally around. It’s just absolutely wonderful.”

Brooks’ son, granddaughter and son-in-law attended the funeral, said Roberts, but they did not speak at the service.

Related: 104-Year-Old Marine Veteran Asks for Valentine's Day Cards — and Receives Over 70,000

"Thank god and praise god for Gerry's willingness to offer up what he has, to offer his life,” said Chaplain Phillip Dow with the Maine Army National Guard, who officiated the service, via Fox affiliate WFVX. “That request that offering was not called to him while he was in service. But that no less negates what he was willing to do. "

In a June 20 Facebook post, the Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services shared photos from the service and wrote: “An incredible display of honor and respect! — Thank you to all who attended today’s burial as we laid to rest Gerry R. Brooks, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of Augusta.”

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