The public was invited to attend the graveside services for a U.S. Army veteran who did not have any surviving family members and a crowd of around 300 people showed up.
Army Private First Class Matthew Lawrence Williams, 63, served in Vietnam and was honorably discharged in 1974.
The public was invited to witness the graveside service with military honors at the New Willimantic Cemetery at 1 p.m. Thursday, according to the obituary on the Potter Funeral Home website.
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A large crowd answered the call. They may have been strangers, but they cared about his life and his service.
“I found out he had no family and I felt that it was sad to see somebody pass from this time," said retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Gokey.
Jeffrey DeClerk, senior vice commander of the American Legion in Connecticut, posted details about the service on Facebook.
"It was spreading like wildfire. By the time I left work this morning to come here it had reach close to 38,000 people. It had been shared 800 times.”
“Twelve hours ago no one knew this was happening,” said Russ Benblatt, spokesperson for Potter Funeral Home. “No one knew who Matthew Williams was. Now look at the turn out.”
Veterans, State Police and people from across the state laid flowers and brought flags for Williams.
“It’s extremely heartfelt people that don’t even know him show up show the respect,” said Betsy Somers, Columbia.
Williams died on July 22. He was buried next to his mother.
"It’s not about who was where he served, it’s the fact that he served this country in uniform, and it’s our job to be there for him. No veteran should go home alone," DeClerck said.