A Facebook call-out asking former soldiers to attend the funeral of a 67-year-old former submariner who succumbed to cancer, alone and in a nursing home, drew hundreds of mourners -- most of them strangers, reported the Portsmouth (U.K.) News.
Rodney "Vic" Silvester was a veteran who served on nuclear submarines for many years, reported the paper. But fate and poor health left him dying alone in a hospital room after spending time at a residential care home for the sick and elderly. Just one distant relative -- a cousin -- came forward to organize Silvester's funeral, but that all changed when the Supporting Veterans in Care Facebook group got involved.
The group put out a plea for mourners, a plea that was echoed by the British Legion and the Submariners’ Association. Messages to representatives of the Supporting Veterans in Care group, based in the U.K., were not answered by publication.
Silvester's career was spent aboard the HMS Dolphin, on the HMS Odin and the HMS Dreadnought -- the highlights of which were noted at his funeral. A bugler played as his coffin was lowered to the ground, reported The News.
The paper quoted his second cousin, John Harper, saying: "I think what these guys do is fabulous, absolutely superb. I didn’t expect such a large turn out; it’s brilliant. I would like to say thank you very much for everybody for turning out. Rod would have been chuffed to bits, so would his dad. He would have loved every bit of it."
Roy Dixon, a member of the Submariners’ Association, was also quoted:
‘We heard that Vic had passed and the information was very scant but one significant factor was that we had heard only one member of family had been in contact. So we decided that we would not let the side down, and do what we would always do and attend the funeral of a fellow submariner. I’m so pleased that the turnout is as good as this, from all walks of Navy life, surface ships, bombers, diesel boats, there’s even a Green Beret here which is really something."
In the U.S., the Department of Defense provides military funeral honors at the burials of veterans on request. This includes sending an honors detail to fold and present the U.S. flag to the next of kin and play “Taps,” either by a recording or a bugler. The law defines a military funeral honors detail as two or more uniformed military persons, with at least one being a member of the veteran's branch of military service, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs website. A DVA spokesman was unaware of any U.S. veteran groups that routinely attend funerals.