Community attends funeral service for Florida veteran with no immediate family

PHOTO: Mourners reach out an touch an urn holding the remains U.S. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson during an open funeral service, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Sarasota National Cemetary in Sarasota, Fla.PlayChris O'meara/AP
WATCH Thousands show up to funeral in Florida for veteran with no family

It was an emotional day for hundreds of people who turned out to honor and say final farewells to a U.S. Army veteran many had never met.

On Tuesday, friends and strangers in the community attended the internment for Edward K. Pearson, 80, of Naples, Florida, at Sarasota National Cemetery.

PHOTO: A motorcycle group carries American flags during an open funeral service for U.S. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Sarasota National Cemetary in Sarasota, Fla. Chris Omeara/AP
A motorcycle group carries American flags during an open funeral service for U.S. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Sarasota National Cemetary in Sarasota, Fla.

They carried U.S. flags. Some laid flowers. Others reached out to touch the veteran's urn.

"It shows that Americans still care," mourner Donald Johnson said of the turnout. "We still have a special empathy for mankind."

Pearson had no immediate family and died Aug. 31, according to ABC News affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa Bay

His obituary went viral on social media after the funeral home said in a service announcement that he had no immediate family and that the public was welcome to attend, The Associated Press said.

PHOTO: An honor guard carries the remains of during U.S. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson and an American flag during an open funeral service Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Sarasota National Cemetary in Sarasota, Fla. Chris Omeara/AP
An honor guard carries the remains of during U.S. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson and an American flag during an open funeral service Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Sarasota National Cemetary in Sarasota, Fla.

Pearson served from 1962-1964 and was honorably discharged, the Legacy Options Funeral and Cremation Services said. He was born in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, according to WFTS-TV, and had lived in Naples for the last 25 years.

One by one at Tuesday's service, mourners stepped up to the podium to thank Pearson for his service and thank those who had gathered to remember him.

"First off, I really want to show my profound gratitude and appreciation for each and every one of you coming out here to show this veteran the dignity, honor and respect that he justly deserves. When I first heard about him on the news, that he had no family, well that broke my heart. And that he was going to be laid to rest with nobody around. To me, that's not right. No veteran, man or woman, should ever have to have that happen to them ... But when the call went out over social media and the news, look what happened ... Just look around. This is a sure show of true humankind and compassion," said one mourner named Bob.

The service was held at 12:30 p.m. and he was interred with full military honors. After the honor guard folded the U.S. flag, it was put on display at the funeral home.

PHOTO: An honor guard folds an American flag during an open funeral service for U.S. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Sarasota National Cemetary in Sarasota, Fla. Chris Omeara/AP
An honor guard folds an American flag during an open funeral service for U.S. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson, Oct. 1, 2019, at the Sarasota National Cemetary in Sarasota, Fla.