Thousands of strangers attend funeral of veteran with no family

Although Edward Pearson died alone, his memorial service and memory will not soon be forgotten. More than 2,000 strangers came together on October 1 in Sarasota to say goodbye to the Army veteran.

Pearson passed away on August 31 at the age of 80. He served in the Army from 1962 to 1964 and was honorably discharged. 

After learning he had no immediate family, the funeral director extended an invitation to the public on social media.

The funeral home's request quickly went viral. 

Thousands of people from across Florida and beyond came out to Sarasota National Cemetery to pay their respects. The large outpouring of support even caused traffic to be backed up, almost delaying the service itself.

"People on the highway were saluting, motorcycles were joining in as we made our way up from Naples to Sarasota. It was a little overwhelming," said funeral director Michael Hoyt.

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Many of those in attendance were fellow veterans. 

"I just felt the urge to. Everybody deserves to have somebody see them leave," said retired Army veteran Donald Johnson.

Pearson's neighbor thanked everyone for coming to support him.

"If Ed were here today and saw this for him today, he would laugh, cry and salute. He's been our neighbor for the last several years. He was a wonderful man and he deserves everything that happened for him here today. Thank you." she said. 

Assistant Director of Sarasota National Cemetery Ed Lyons said they take pride in working to make sure no veteran is ever forgotten.

"It's what we do. It's what these veterans deserve. It's what this veteran deserves," said Lyons.