FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – He served the country during one of the most controversial wars. Now, Vietnam veteran James Beavers will forever be remembered for the hero he was. Thousands of people came to pay their respects to the 74-year-old Thursday afternoon.
Beavers died a few days before Thanksgiving. However, after three weeks of searching for any family, no one could be located. That’s when local funeral home D.O. McComb and Sons stepped forward to provide funeral services and a burial with full military honors.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, the Indiana Patriot Guard kept watch for nearly three hours outside the Lakeside Park Chapel.
“We came out today to pay Mr. Beavers the respect that he’s due for his service in Vietnam. Doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have any family members that are known. What matters is that we’re here today to show him that respect. We’re honored to be here. People take time out of their days to do this. There are still a lot of patriotic people in this country and we’re glad to stand their shoulder to shoulder with them today,” Senior Chaplain for the Indiana Patriot Guard Pat Brase said.
Brase thinks Beavers’ story has the chance to help other veterans still recovering from their time in the service.
“I think it comes from the fact of how the Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home. Vietnam was a place that no one liked that all service people hated and it’s just now. There’s folks that are still trying to heal from their experience there. And in some way I hope that this can be a healing experience for some of them today,” Brase said.
Inside, the line stretched throughout the funeral home. While thousands of people came to pay their respects to Beavers, hardly anyone there had ever met him. That lack of a meeting, though, no match for the bond the military brings.
“When one falls, it’s good to come around and recognize them,” Jack Van Burk, who serves in Security Forces for the Air Force, said.
“I found it across Facebook, and I felt I needed to be here because it’s a brother in arms. Doesn’t matter what war or who it is, it’s family,” Ryan Masten, a veteran from Battle Creek, Michigan, said.
Aimmie Jenkins and her husband are both in the military. She brought her 11-year-old son, Andy, to Thursday’s service because she wanted him to understand how much those in the military community support one another.
“We have each other’s backs. We’re each other’s battle buddies. We’re going to be here for each other regardless of the situations. Whether it’s a stick of butter, a t-shirt that you need to borrow, or a funeral for a person you don’t know, we’re going to be there for you,” Jenkins said. “We walk up here, and there’s hundreds and hundreds of people that have never met this man, but we’re going to take care of our own.”
While so many of the names filling the guest book couldn’t pick Beavers out of a crowd, one man could. Richard Griswold met him a few years ago and said the incredible turnout didn’t surprise him because Beavers was just “that good of a guy.”
“I kind of had a hunch it would turn out this good,” Griswold said. “He was an awesome fella that I can remember, spoke to me real kind and everything. It makes my life whole and complete knowing that he did what he did for our country.”
Beavers’ story is making its mark across the globe. Since Monday, it’s been shared thousands of times, with mail coming in from places like Hawaii and even Nigeria. It also brought in travelers from as far away as Oklahoma. 38-year veteran David Alderman traveled 900 miles from Moore, Oklahoma to be at Thursday’s services.
“Heard it on the internet and just paying my respects to another veteran,” Alderman said.
Every minute of the half hour funeral service was full of tributes and prayers for Beavers, all meant to honor a man whose legacy will live on well past his 74 years on this earth.
“It was said James didn’t have a family. based on the audience here today, I believe he does have a family and that is all of us,” said a representative from the Vietnam Veterans of America at the funeral service.