PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A United States Army veteran from New Jersey was laid to rest with full military honors on Monday. Hundreds of people who didn’t even know him attended the service.
“He had no family, he had nobody to say goodbye to him,” Joni Harrison, of Operation Yellow Ribbon, said.
Surrounded by complete strangers, Robert “Bob” Grala was honored at the Gloucester County Veterans Memorial Cemetery for his burial.
“We are here today to say we care,” Memorial Presbyterian Church of Wynona Pastor Keith Reed said. “We are here today to say, ‘Bob, even though we didn’t know you, you matter.’ We came to honor him because he is a veteran and we stand together.”
A decorated serviceman, Grala received the National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Army of Good Conduct Medal.
He served in Korea from 1968 to 1970.
“I’m a veteran and I served almost when he was in Korea,” Robert Price said.
Grala died in a boarding home in Williamstown. He was 70 years old.
“Bob was a very, very smart guy,” nurse Bonnie Bell said.
Grala met Bell and social worker Marci Lucca at Guardian Medical Daycare in Glassboro.
They cared for him for nearly 20 years.
“Astonishing, truly astonishing. Bonnie and I thought it would be six people, eight people, and here we had hundreds,” Bell said. “There’s bad stuff, but boy there’s an awful lot of good and these folks are a part of it.”
“Perhaps as a final tribute to Bob, we just ask everyone to step up and place your hand on the casket, say a few prayers,” Harrison said. “I wanted her to come here and say goodbye to Bob too.”
It was a sendoff fit for a true hero.
“Being a vet of the United States, he deserves every honor that could possibly be bestowed upon him just for the simple fact that he put his life on the line for us,” Harrison said.
The federal government will fund the headstone, but nonprofit Vets Helping Vets will set the headstone.