Lost phone returned with smiling surprise as Scotland-Germany love-in blossoms

American veteran dies in nursing home, abandoned. Hundreds of unknown people came to say goodbye

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Former U.S. Marine Gerry Brooks has died alone in a Maine retirement home, abandoned and almost forgotten. Then the funeral home posted a notice asking if anyone would serve as a pallbearer or simply attend his funeral.
Within minutes, it diverted volunteers from carrying his coffin.
A bagpiper came to play at the service. The pilot offered to fly over. Military groups across the state promised a proper deployment.
Hundreds of people who knew nothing about the 86-year-old man except his name turned out on a steamy afternoon to greet Brooks with full military honors Thursday at the Maine Veterans Cemetery in Augusta.
Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles accompanied his hearse on the 40-mile route from the funeral home in Belfast, Maine, to the cemetery. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars paid their respects with a 21-gun salute. Volunteers held American flags next to the casket while a crane hoisted a giant flag over the entrance to the cemetery.
Some saluted at the submission. Others sang The Marines’ Hymn.
“It’s an honor to be able to do this,” said Jim Roberts, commander of the Belfast VFW post. “There is so much negativity in the world. This is something that people can feel good about and rally around. It’s just absolutely amazing.” He said Brooks’ son, granddaughter and son-in-law came to the funeral but did not speak during the service.
Roberts said the VFW gets calls several times a year about a deceased veteran with no family or one who is unwilling to arrange a funeral. But “we’ll always be there.” Like the other veterans who helped out Thursday, he didn’t know Brooks.
So many groups volunteered to pay their respects that there wasn’t enough room to fit into the 20-minute funeral service, said Katie Riposta, a funeral director who called for help last week.
“It restores your faith in humanity,” she said.
More than 8 million living veterans in the U.S. are age 65 or older, nearly half of the veteran population. They are overwhelmingly men. This follows from last year’s US Census Bureau report. When this generation dies, their collective memory of wartime experiences will “pass into history.”
Not much is known about Brooks’ life.
He was widowed and lived in Augusta. He died May 18, less than a week after entering the nursing home, Riposta said. The cause of death has not been released.
The funeral home and authorities reached out to his next of kin, but no one was willing to come forward or take responsibility for his body, she said.
“He sounds like he’s a good person, but I don’t know anything about his life,” Riposta said, noting that after Brooks’ death, a woman contacted the funeral home and said he once took her in when she had nowhere else to go. go, no details.
“It doesn’t matter if he served one day or made a career in the military,” she said. “He still deserves to be respected and not alone.”
The crowd wasn’t a complete stranger Thursday — and it turns out Brooks wasn’t either.
Victoria Abbott, executive director of the Bread of Life shelter in Augusta, said he came to eat at their soup kitchen every day, always ready to crack “dad jokes” and make the staff laugh. He had a favorite table.
“Your typical 80-year-old dad jokes around every day,” Abbott said. “It was really great to have him around. He was part of the soup kitchen family.”
But most people there on Thursday met him too late. A memorial book posted online by Direct Cremation of Maine, which helped make the funeral arrangements, had wishes from several strangers.
“Sir,” one began and ended with “Semper Fi.”
Two others, a couple, thanked Brooks for his service. “We all deserve kindness and respect when called home. I hope you lived a beautiful life full of love, kindness, dreams and hope,” they wrote.
They added: “Thank you to all who will make this gentleman’s service a proper, well-deserved farewell.”
Linda Laweryson, who served in the Marine Corps, said it was the second funeral she attended in more than a year for a veteran who died alone. Everyone deserves to die with dignity and be buried with dignity, she said.
During the graveside service, Laweryson read a poem written by a combat Marine reflecting on the place where Marines go through boot camp.
“I walked the old parade ground, but I was not alone,” the poem reads. “I walked on the old parade ground and I knew I was home.”

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