Thousands of strangers attended the Friday military funeral of a 77-year-old Vietnam War veteran from New Jersey who died alone and had no known relatives.
Mourners filled 200 vehicles in a procession leading from a church to a funeral service in North Hanover Township, New Jersey, to honor the life of Peter Turnpu, an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War.
“This is my brother,” retired Army Sgt. Jose Burgos, a veteran of the Iraq War who attended the funeral told Fox News. “It’s a brotherhood.”
A neighbor discovered Turnpu’s body inside his Waterford home on December 9. Turnpu, who was married but divorced in 1980, lived alone and mostly kept to himself. He had no children of his own and few acquaintances, according to reports.
A police officer reached out to a local funeral homeowner, LeRoy Wooster, to plan funeral arrangements for the late 77-year-old veteran. Wooster offered his services free of charge.
“It was the right thing to do,” Wooster said. “I didn’t want him to be buried alone.”
Wooster told the Philadelphia Inquirer he learned about Turnpu’s military service upon reading a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs while visiting a Philadelphia VA hospital.
Turnpu was born in 1941 in Estonia and immigrated to the United States with his mother. He served in the U.S Army, completing a tour in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966, and was honorably discharged from service, WPIX reported.
Tom Engkilterra, a representative from the National League of POW/MIA Families, received the American flag that military pallbearers draped over Turnpu’s casket:
An honor guard folds the flag from the casket of Peter Turnpu. It was presented to the National Leagueog POW/MIA Families pic.twitter.com/mchrX6o7cZ
— Melanie Burney (@MLBURNEY) January 18, 2019
“He’s part of my family now,” he said. “It’s a mind-blowing honor to receive it.”
Members of the community have come out in full force to attend funerals for deceased veterans with no known family. In December 2017, hundreds of strangers packed into a church in Indianapolis to honor a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran with no known relatives.
The following year, hundreds of people showed up to a funeral service for a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran in Tennessee who had no confirmed relatives.