Crowds packed a suburban chapel, with lines out the door as people came to pay their respects to a veteran many had never met.
Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin had put out a call for people to attend the services for Vietnam war veteran John James Murphy because his family couldn't be found.
Photos: Line Out the Door at Veteran’s Services After Funeral Home Asks for People to Attend
But he was buried with another family by his side.
"It’s a sad thing when a man like that finds himself in a situation where he’s got nobody. But then he has all of us. We’re all brothers in being veterans," said Vietnam veteran Barron Buchunas, who attended the services.
Murphy, 71, passed away on Dec. 18, an obituary on the funeral home's website read.
Murphy, who was born in Chicago but spent his later years in Elgin, was a jet engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force and earned awards including the National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Vietnam Service Medal, according to his obituary. He also worked as a store manager at Dominick’s and as a welder.
Murphy spent his final years at River View Rehab Center where he will be remembered “as a very friendly and cordial man who enjoyed helping others,” the funeral home wrote.
“He had a wonderful sense of humor and was always making jokes,” his obituary reads.
Murphy reportedly had one brother, two sisters, one child and grandchildren, but officials have not been able to locate any surviving family members. The Kane County Coroner spent several weeks trying to locate relatives and was unsuccessful, according to the funeral home.
That’s why Symonds-Madison put out a call for others to join them in paying their respects.
"They teach us in the Army, leave no one behind," said Daniel Symonds, owner and operator of the funeral home. "I’m not leaving John behind. He’s my brother. He’s not only my brother in arms, even if he is Air Force, he's my brother now - me, physically. I have made him part of my family."
And the outpouring of support so far has been “overwhelming,” Symonds, who is also a first sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserves, said.
"That tells me there’s a lot of good people in this world, and they respect veterans," said US Marine Corps veteran Tom McNeil, who attended the services. "They respect what we did and are here for us just like I’m here for him. I didn’t know this gentleman. But I came from a long way just to get here, to be here for him."
"It hits me hard. It’s our family," said Marine veteran Louis Reemtsma. "One of us passes, one of us gets hurt, everybody feels it. A lot of people don’t understand. It’s something among veterans. It’s a connection, you feel it. You don’t even have to touch them, don’t have to be right next to them. You could be in another country, something happens, and you feel it."
But even more, the funeral home is hoping the story of how others joined together to say goodbye to Murphy will find its way to his family.
“That’s one of the main reasons why we are putting the call out or doing this,” Symonds said. “We want and hope and we pray that maybe, by some chance, his daughter or his grandchildren realize that he’s passed.”
The funeral home held a visitation at 10 a.m. Wednesday followed by a service at 11 a.m. and interment with military honors at 2 p.m. at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.
"Any veteran, unclaimed veteran, send them to me," Symonds said. "I will make sure they get buried. I don’t care if I have to pay my own money out of it. I will do it."