It all started with a simple ad in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper.
The short block of text invited the public to attend the funeral of Vietnam veteran Private First Class Stanley C. Stoltz. Stoltz had lived most of his life in the same small town near Omaha, Nebraska but was a private man who kept to himself. He’d been married twice, losing one wife to death and another to divorce, and he never had any children.
Soon people began to share the blurb on social media, and before long, the news that a veteran would be laid to rest with no one there to witness his passing took a firm hold on the web. The story eventually passed the Twitter feed of CNN reporter Jake Tapper, who retweeted the clipping to his nearly 2 million followers.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) November 24, 2018
Good Shepherd Funeral Home director Mike Hoy said the response to this simple advertisement left him awestruck and humbled.
“There was some family that eventually came forward,” Mike said. “The outpouring of support has been great. It’s just an honor.”
Along with Private Stoltz’s brother Keith, hundreds of strangers braved the cold to lay this unknown hero to rest. Stoltz’s hospice workers also paid their respects to the man they’d helped at the end of his days.
On the day that Private Stoltz was laid to rest, Chaplain Roy Edwards said the turn-out was unprecedented.
“This is the first time we’ve had this kind of crowd,” he explained. “Most get six to eight cars, 15 at most. This is hundreds.”
Cars lined the road for miles around the grave site, with mourners parking far away and walking on the uneven roads to stand by Private Stoltz’s grave. The crowd was filled with people from all walks of life, including fellow veterans in military fatigues.
“There’s an old saying that nobody loves a veteran like another veteran,” said cemetery representative Mark Macko to the gathering crowd. “That was certainly shown today.”
Those who knew Stoltz said they were certain he would have been honored by the huge turn out for his funeral. Watching strangers wipe away tears for a man they’d never met was both heartbreaking and life-affirming. Many grievers left behind flowers and other tokens for the veteran’s grave in a small attempt to say thank you to a man who once fought for our freedom.
In the end, there were more than 400 people at Stoltz’s funeral.
We can all learn from this story and use it as a reminder to reach out to veterans today to see if they need anything. Sometimes simply extending the hand of friendship is a worthy way to show your respect for someone who has earned it through the valor of their service. Let’s not let another veteran die without a friend in the world.
Please share this story to pay your respects to Private First Class Stanley C. Stoltz. Thank you for your service, sir; and may you rest in peace.
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