Recently an elderly veteran by the name of Edward Pearson in Florida passed away. When the funeral home became involved it was quickly discovered that the Army veteran did not have any immediate family. His final honors would be alone and without any loved ones.

The owner of Legacy Options Funeral Home, Michael Hoyt, decided that because he didn’t have any family or friends to attend the funeral that he and another veteran would be the two that would pay their respects and attend his funeral.

The attendance number changed when Hoyt posted an obituary for Pearson online that said, “This veteran has no immediate family, all are welcome to attend.”

Wanting to get the message out to the community, the post went viral and was shared thousands of times on social media.

You could say “mission accomplished.” More than 4,000 people attended Pearson’s funeral. None of them were family or immediate friends. They were just a bunch of strangers – a bunch of strangers that are brothers and sisters who share the honor of serving in the military. Just a bunch of strangers who are American’s that demonstrated we are human and capable of caring for each other.

If you haven’t seen the news stories on this special moment, go online and check it out. It will certainly tug at your heart and make you realize that there are special people out there who are willing to make sure that a fellow American isn’t left alone as he is laid to rest.

While this story is great, it does frustrate me in one area. My problem with this story is that we as a society waited to show our respect to Mr. Pearson until after he was dead. But why wait? Why can’t we show our respect to those like Mr. Pearson when they are alive?

I know we are busy people with busy lives. I know it is hard to talk to a stranger or meet someone for the first time and get outside of our comfort zone. But the next time you are in public and you see anyone wearing a military hat or driving a car with a military bumper sticker or flying their armed services flag, take a moment to thank them for their service. Let them know that they are loved, appreciated and not alone. And if you didn’t serve in the military, it is even more reason for you to say “thank you.” But don’t wait. Time is precious and they deserve to know that they are utterly appreciated for what they sacrificed.

And don’t let it stop there. Get to know them, make sure they have people in their lives that can care and love them. If they don’t, it is time for you to serve your duty. They served our country for you and for us, now it is time for us to serve them.

I challenge everyone to show your appreciation. Whether it is spending time with a veteran at a nursing home or simply thanking a young veteran in fatigues, that simple message of appreciation can go a long way. Let’s show our appreciation to veteran’s while they are alive and make it the next viral sensation.

I challenge everyone to post a photo of a veteran on social media with the hashtag #ourveteransareloved. Share this with you family and friends, and as Americans we can show that we care and appreciate all veterans and military personnel.

Mike Wood is publisher of Midwest Messenger, Midwest Messenger: Kansas, Tri-State Neighbor, and The Prairie Star. He can be reached at mike.wood@lee.net.

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