Jerry Billings, a U.S. Navy aviation machinist airman who served his country in the 1960s, had fallen on tough times economically towards the end of his life. The veteran passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 69, penniless, homeless, and with no family to claim his body or attend his funeral.
A city employee, Christine Hoffman, took it upon herself to get word of Billings’ life and service out to others. Hoffman took to social media, posting a sign about his funeral on a ‘Veterans Connect’ Facebook page.
The post was shared thousands of times, and what happened next is incredible.
Hundreds of strangers came together at the Bill Eisenhour Funeral Home in Del City to honor the life of a man they never met.
“We want to make sure as veterans, we serve them, and provide that last honor for them. We are their brothers and sisters,” said Tramel, an Air Force veteran and Chairman of the Homeless Veterans Organization.
Jerry Bryan Billings served in the U.S. Navy. His military family took the place of the family he never had.
The U.S. Marine Corps, American Legion Post 353, VFW Post 9969, Catholic War Veterans Post 168, VFW Post 1857, the Patriot Guard Riders, Rolling Thunder and Youth Trumpet and Taps Corps all played a role in the service.
“We want to make sure that we provide a dignified service for them and lay them to rest peacefully,” Tramel said.
Watch the local news report on Billings’ funeral, and the hundreds of military members that made it special:
The city worker was moved by the outpouring of support shown over a simple request she had made on Facebook for a stranger.
“This was just amazing. Absolutely amazing. My heart is swollen,” Hoffman said.