DALLAS — When a Denton funeral director was able to schedule funeral service for a deceased Army veteran who passed in October, he wasn't sure if anyone would attend — so he contacted several veterans groups.
More than 100 people showed up Wednesday for the funeral of John Walker at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. Approximately 56,000 military veterans are buried there — 4,600 in the past year alone.
Walker was born in Orange and died Oct. 19 at a Denton hospital. For weeks, his body was stored in a hospital morgue. DeBerry Funeral Directors of Denton received the remains earlier this month.
"He deserved it. He served us," said Andy DeBerry, who coordinated the funeral. But he was concerned. Would people show up?
Turns out his worries were unfounded.
"I said, 'Well, it better be a turnout here today. But if not, I'm still gonna show up,'" said Carla Allen, an Army veteran who attended Wednesday's services.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders served as pallbearers. The organization ensures dignity and respect at memorial services honoring fallen military members, first responders and honorably discharged veterans, according to the mission statement on the nonprofit's website.
An hour before the service, dozens of folks were in line at the cemetery in southwest Dallas to honor someone most didn't even know.
"He has too many brothers," said Army veteran Ruben Garces. "He'll always have brothers. That's why I'm here."
Walker was a disabled veteran who served in in the Army during the Vietnam War. According to military records, he received several citations, including the Purple Heart. His mother, who has dementia and lives at a nursing home in Pilot Point, was able to attend. So were many of her friends and neighbors.
"All of these folks were going to make sure that this service had honor, dignity and respect," said Eldon Woodie, assistant director of Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
Respect for a veteran who is not forgotten.
"It's just simply the right thing to do," Woodie said.
SETH VOORHEES is the Denton County reporter for KXAS-TV (NBC5).