When U.S. Army veteran Stanley C. Stoltz died recently, a heartbreakingly short obituary was published by Good Shepherd Funeral Home, which handled his arrangements.
“The Public is invited to the Cemetery to honor a Vietnam Veteran with no known family,” it read. “Interment will be in Omaha National Cemetery on Tuesday, November 27, at 2pm.”
That obituary was published last Wednesday. Within a few days, it had been shared to social media accounts across the Omaha area and had begun making its way to neighboring states. On Saturday, CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted it to his 1.94 million followers, tagging Nebraska’s senators and governor as well as Omaha’s mayor.
This man deserves someone to show up for his funeral, the shares said. Try to make it if you can.
Today, despite freezing temperatures in Omaha, people showed up indeed — more than 400 of them. Local Army veteran Nick Batter, who attended the service, told Legacy he saw “a sea of people” in Omaha National Cemetery, many of them fellow veterans representing every branch of the military, from entry-level soldiers to brass. Police and firefighters showed up, too. The new cemetery, established in 2016, was all but overwhelmed by the turnout, with cars backing up traffic and parking along the side of the road and in nearby cornfields.
So big was the turnout that the service was delayed about 20 minutes, but when it began, it included all the military honors due to a veteran like Stoltz. Local veterans organizations made sure an honor guard was in attendance to provide a gun salute to Stoltz, and Taps was performed. That mournful trumpet tune is one that service members salute when it plays, and Batter said, “It seemed like every person there was saluting.”
Stoltz, a Private First Class, was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War and later lived in Iowa and Nebraska, working for an International Harvester dealer for a time. He had family, but he appeared to have lost touch with his siblings in the years after his military service. Yet after the brief obituary was published in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, the internet worked its magic and at least one of his brothers was found, who attended the funeral and provided biographical information to be included in Stoltz’s funeral service.
Batter found meaning in the service. The attendees were largely strangers to each other, but as they came together to honor a veteran, they found common ground.
And they were reminded of the community that exists all around them, Batter said. The funeral was certainly about Stoltz, his life and his military service, but there was more to it than that. “It’s as much about everybody who’s there realizing they have a network around them in the community,” Batter noted. “It’s important for any veterans out there to realize that they’re not alone, in life or in death.”