A Marine Corps veteran from Tennessee who had no apparent relatives when he died was not forgotten at his funeral last week when hundreds showed up to the ceremony.
Leo Stokley, of Murfreesboro, died November 4 at the age of 69 at a nursing home located in Ashland City, according to his obituary posted on Boyd Funeral Home’s website.
Stokely was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on June 5, 1949, and served as a Marine in Vietnam, according to the obituary.
The veteran had been scheduled for burial with military honors at the Middle Tennessee Veteran’s Cemetery in Pegram on November 9 when employees at a county veterans’ services office noticed he had been an “unclaimed veteran.”
“When we found out that he was considered an unclaimed veteran, which means he has no family, we wanted to make sure that he got claimed,” Bob Counter told the Tennessean.
Counter, who is a veteran of the Air Force, posted about the “unclaimed veteran” on the Cheatham County Veterans Services Office Facebook page in the hopes others would show up to his funeral.
“We are asking Team Cheatham, and especially our Veterans, to claim Mr. Stokley as a matter of respect for his military service,” the post read. “No Veteran should have a funeral without someone holding his/her service in high regard. It’s just not right or fitting.”
Counter’s initial post went viral, racking up thousands of shares by the time the funeral took place on November 9. The unclaimed veteran’s story spread beyond social media when hundreds of people, including “veterans and friends of veterans” showed up to the ceremony.
“It’s very heartwarming to see this many veterans and friends of veterans that show up here on a cold, rainy day, a weekday, to send him off in style,” Counter told WTVF. I’m proud for that. I’m proud for these guys that did that.”
Other “unclaimed veterans” with no known relatives had people show up at their funerals thanks to the power of the Internet.
In 2016, veterans’ groups organized a social media campaign for a formerly homeless veteran with no known relatives, prompting about 200 people to show up to a funeral where four people were expected to show up.