ELGIN, Ill. — Hundreds of people attended a funeral service in suburban Chicago Wednesday for a former U.S. Air Force mechanic who became an “unclaimed veteran” when he died last month.

The service for John James Murphy, 71, was held at Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin. Murphy died Dec. 18 at a nearby hospital after living in a rehabilitation center since 2017. The funeral home was unable to find any relatives.

“He is ours,” the Rev. Tim Perry said to applause at the start of the service.

A member of the U.S. Army Honor Guard plays "Taps" in memory of Stephen Jerald Spicer, a homeless U.S. Army veteran, during a full military honors service at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha, Fla., July 18, 2019.
For some veterans, strangers are family at burial services
There were no relatives at Vietnam veteran Stephen Jerald Spicer’s funeral, but his passing didn’t go unnoticed as a few dozen patriotic strangers showed up to honor his service.

Joy and Dan Symonds, the owners of the funeral home, invited the public to attend Murphy’s service. The Symonds obtained permission from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to conduct a service that included full military honors.

Murphy was a U.S. Air Force jet engine mechanic from 1966 to 1969. His awards for military service included the Vietnam Service Medal.

Those who attended Murphy’s service included veterans, active service members and civilians.

“I didn’t think so many people would be here,” U.S. Navy veteran Cliff Hall told the Daily Herald. “This is incredible.”

Sonia Alfaro, a civilian from Streamwood, brought a bouquet of red roses.

“I wanted to come to support a veteran,” Alfaro said. “I wanted him to be accompanied by people who appreciated his service and what he did for his country.”

A procession with a police escort took Murphy’s remains to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, where he was buried with the sounds of a 21-gun salute.

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