ELGIN, OK (TNN) - Hundreds of people attended a memorial service Wednesday afternoon for a retired veteran who didn’t have any known family members. The service for Retired Sergeant First Class Michael Burke the Fourth, who died back in February, was held at Fort Sill National Cemetery.
People came from different areas of the state to pay their respects and most everybody there didn't know Burke, but they felt that coming today was the right thing to do.
It touched many and even brought some to tears. LeRoy Baxter, who never met Burke, closed his business to attend the service after seeing the story on the news to pay his respects.
"He doesn't have any family, but he actually really does, and people care and take time out of their schedules to come out and pay their respects," Baxter said.
Burke served in the Army for 20 years before retiring from Fort Sill in 1999. The flag that draped over his casket was given to Master Sgt. J.T. Litzenberg, Burke's former neighbor.
"It is heartwarming to see a good sendoff for Mike,” Litzenberg said. “Mike needed to have a good sendoff. It's just outstanding. It's great."
Since family could not be found, Scott Deatherage, with Honoring America's Warriors, said Honoring America's Warriors and a funeral home in Oklahoma City paid for the casket and planned the service. They got involved after being contacted by a behavioral health provider on Fort Sill.
"Soldiers, they're never left alone, there is always soldiers around them…at the worst times and at the best times,” Deatherage said. “They were here today…you saw them turn out in great numbers."
Deatherage said it's a rare occurrence to have a veteran die without any known family and it's nice to see the community step up.
“That’s what America is all about,” he said. “That’s why this country is so great because we have the greatest people on earth, the most caring people and we’re in Oklahoma too, and that’s a whole another standard, and so I think that’s the Oklahoma and American standard right there.”