Hundreds of strangers attended the funeral of a British veteran after a clergyman, fearing that the former Royal Marine would be buried without mourners, posted a message on Facebook asking members of the public to be present for the ceremony.
James McConnell died last month at a nursing home in Southsea. The 70-year-old veteran had no close family and nursing home staff feared that they would be the only people at his funeral.
When Rev. Bob Mason was asked to conduct the small, state-sponsored ceremony, he decided to post a message on Facebook and contact the Royal Marines Association in the hopes that veterans living nearby would be able to attend the service.
The message, which was shared and reposted on hundreds of Royal Marines Corps pages, listed the time and date of the funeral and concluded with a heartfelt plea.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Rev. Mason wrote, "In this day and age it is tragic enough that anyone has to leave this world with no one to mourn their passing, but this man was family and I am sure you will agree deserves a better send off. If you can make it to the graveside for that time to pay your respects to a former brother in arms then please try to be there."
On the day of the service, more than 200 people braved freezing temperatures to pay tribute to the former Royal Marine, ITV News reports.
A small procession through the cemetery was led by Royal British Legion standard bearers and flag-bearing motorcyclists from the Royal British Legion Riders Branch accompanied the hearse to the burial site.
Rev. Mason conducted the service and made a point to thank the hundreds of people who had shown up to bury a complete stranger. "The great majority of you who have come here today did not know James McConnell but wanted him to have a dignified farewell," he said. "I thank you for that kindness and generosity of spirit."
The service concluded with two buglers from the Royal Marines Band Service playing the "Last Post," the British equivalent of "Taps."
"I heard about it and just wanted to come along," 88-year-old veteran Arthur Bailey said. "This is what the armed forces family is for."
"It was mentioned wrongly that he did not have family," former Royal Marine Danny Marshal told ITV News. "The corps family is bigger and better than most people would know about."
"We are all family and always will be."
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ellie Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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