When 70-year-old James McConnell passed away at a nursing home in Britain’s southern coast, the staff had no one to inform. McConnell had no family, as far as they could tell, or close friends. All they knew about the man, who had shown up just a couple months before, was that he was a former Royal Marine.
A week later, 200 strangers showed up in the damp, freezing cold to attend his funeral. It was all thanks to a post on Facebook.
British social services charged Rev. Bob Mason with overseeing the funeral. Mason thought it was wrong for the man—much less a Royal Marine—who’d died alone to also be buried alone. He asked an acquaintance to pass on a message to a military Facebook page:
Ladies and Gentlemen, In this day and age it is tragic enough that anyone has to leave this world with no one to mourn their passing, but this man was family and I am sure you will agree deserves a better send off. If you can make it to the graveside for that time to pay your respects to a former brother in arms then please try to be there.
On Feb. 21, McConnell got a full military standoff. Standard bearers lead a procession through the cemetery, accompanied by a small motorcade of motorcycles. After McConnell had been laid to rest, buglers played “Last Post,” the British equivalent to “Taps.”
Danny Marshall was one of the strangers who attended the funeral. A military vet himself, he told Britain’s ITV:
It was mentioned wrongly that he did not have family. The corps family is bigger and better and than most people would know about. We are all family and always will be.