When Wayne Wilson passed away in May with no surviving family members, his friends initially planned for a small service of 10 people.
But when Drew Mickel, an intern at Brown Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Niles, Michigan, put out a call to the public inviting them to Wilson’s funeral, the small service turned into a massive gathering as more than 3,000 people showed up from across the country to honor the deceased veteran.
“We were just hoping that some of the public would come out and honor him and pay respects,” Mickel told ABC News. “It turned out that a lot of people showed up, saying that he might not have family but I’ll be his family for the day."
It wasn’t just the local community that came to pay their respects. Others drove to Michigan from Iowa, Tennessee and Florida to honor the veteran.
Wilson received full military honors and a military salute at the ceremony.
A representative from Rep. Fred Upton's office was in attendance and presented a flag from Washington, D.C.
“It was unlike any other funeral I’d been to,” Mickel said. “This one was very uplifting and just [had] the message of you’re never alone."
“Even if you think you’re alone, the greater American family is here to support you," he added. "The message to veterans was that you are loved and you are supported and we in the community are all here for you."