U.S. Army veteran Julio Cacho Jr. recently passed away at the age of 64 with no next of kin or friends to see him off to the afterlife.
But that doesn’t mean his family didn’t show up to his funeral in southeast Wisconsin.
“The military family is a powerful, powerful family,” Chaplain Rickard Oberst told WITI. “We’re looking at a loss of connection to family, but never a loss of the military family.”
Dozens of current and former service members poured into a small chapel in Union Grove on Thursday, several decked out in full military uniform, others clearly veterans of foreign wars. The men and women, representing virtually all generations and branches of service, showed up for a final salute to a man they’d never met, because they respect the sacrifices he made.
“It’s very good,” state Rep. Ken Skowronski told the news site. “It’s very honoring to make sure that all of our veterans are in the same place. They want to be there for their comrades.”
Oberst offered remarks and led a prayer, but the soldiers who bowed their heads learned little about Cacho Jr. The Department of Veterans Affairs released only his name and service, which showed Cacho Jr. served in the Army during the Vietnam War.
The group nonetheless carried out full military honors, including a gun salute, taps, and folded flag.
Many were near tears as they saluted Cacho Jr. and reflected on his final assignment at Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
“You served your country, and that’s best honor you can have, to have somebody come and be at your grave site,” Skowronski said.
Many who attended were members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of several veterans groups across the country that work to ensure their fallen comrades receive the burial rights they earned.
In Wisconsin, the state Department of Veterans Affairs created a “no next of kin service” several years ago that typically contains “at least a couple dozen” individuals and groups that sign up for notification of veterans who have passed with no friends or family, Gary Dierks, director of the Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Services Bureau, told The Journal Times.
Anyone can sign up for the list.
About once a month, the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery sends out a notice when officials are unable to contact family, or the family cannot attend, he said, to ensure every veteran in the Badger State is laid to rest with dignity.
“Regardless of who chooses to attend these types of military funerals, no U.S. military veteran has ever had a funeral there without someone present in uniform from the deceased veteran’s service branch, Dierks said,” according to the Times.
“That can include members of the grounds staff at the cemetery. It always includes at least one person from the state Military Full Honors Program, which is located at the cemetery.”