INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - There was standing room only Tuesday morning at the funeral service for a veteran who had no family to give him the dignified burial he deserved.
Billy C. Aldridge, a U.S. Marine Corp veteran, died at a local nursing facility on Oct. 14 at the age of 80. The nursing home had no records of any family, but those who attended said he had one on Tuesday.
"You are his family. Thank you," said Joe Johnson, the pastor of Lawrence United Methodist Church.
"He served our country and gave us the freedoms that we have and the privileges that we have today," said Patrice Gehring who attended the funeral.
Aldridge was a native of Jeffersonville Indiana. He entered the service in 1956. He worked in supply, and after four years was honorably discharged. He then moved to Indianapolis.
"The reason he moved to Indianapolis was to care for his sick mother, who passed on 1 January 1997," said Brig. Gen. J Stewart Goodwin.
Legacy Cremation & Funeral Services, Private Label Caskets, Memorial Park Cemetery and Indianapolis Police Escort worked together to give Aldridge a proper burial.
As the 10 a.m. service began, the church was filled with strangers who came to say goodbye to a man they never knew. The funeral director says more than 1,000 showed up.
"What started out as small internal service for a forgotten individual turned into a public affirmation I think not only of his life, but every life," said Bruce Buchanan of Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers.
Many of those that attended said that someone who was willing to die for this country shouldn't have to die alone.
"While we do not have the circle of family and friends around Billy Aldridge today, we have a community of veterans, a community of supporters of our veterans that come to say you do not die to yourself alone," said Ron May, Chaplain for the US Navy (Ret.).
"When we found out Mr. Aldridge was a veteran, we just felt we had to give him a proper and dignified burial," said Eddie Beagles, of Legacy Cremation and Funeral Services.
"Well done, good and faithful servant. Semper Fi," said Brig. Gen. Goodwin.
Nearly everything, from his casket, to his burial site, to the police escort were donated.
Following the service, Aldridge was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery with full military honors.