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No family or friends came, yet hundreds turned out for a marine's funeral at Rock Island National Cemetery

Private First Class David Craig Yoder was laid to rest Tuesday afternoon. He served in the late 1970s and passed away in February 2023.

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill โ€” Hundreds in the Quad Cities came together, honoring a American hero they didn't even know.

Pfc. David Yoder was laid to rest at the Rock Island National Cemetery on April 20th, 2023.

He was born Friday, May 29th, 1959, and died Thursday, February 2nd, 2023. Pfc. Yoder served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1976 - 1979.

"He might have needed somebody when he was sick, to be by his bedside or something, and we didn't know him," U.S. Marine Corps veteran John De Baene said, who attended the funeral.

In the months after his passing, officials tried to locate family and friends able and willing to attend his funeral, but could not find anyone. However, the Rock Island Arsenal reached out through social media, asking for the community's support to attend his ceremony.

"There are no family or friends that are able to be in attendance for this veteran," the post said. "It is greatly appreciated for those who can attend and support."

As of April 20, the post was shared over 2,300 times, with an outpouring of support in the comments section. 

"We put it out on Facebook with the help of the Arsenal, and It just spread like wildfire," Rock Island National Cemetery Administrative Officer Daniel Baltisberger said. "We were in for a lot of support from the community, and we appreciate it."

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Posted by Rock Island Arsenal onย Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral, representing several organizations and branches of the military.

"He's a Marine Corps, so he's a brother-in-arms โ€” we don't let a fallen soldier go without somebody there," De Baene said. "It makes you proud, especially in times like it is in the United States now, that everybody shows up together to see a man buried, see a soldier put in the ground not by himself."

Foster Funeral & Cremation Services provided the service for Pfc. Yoder, bringing his body from Madison, WI.

"It breaks my heart that the family could not or they decided that they didn't want the veteran anymore," Foster Funeral owner Bryan Foster said.

Foster, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran, directed the funeral. "It's an honor for me and a privilege for me to take my brother to their last ride," he said.

Pfc. Yoder's service was provided through Foster's "Bring Home my Battle Buddies" program.

"We pick them up, wherever they are, I prepare them and I organize to make sure that they're brought to a national cemetery," Foster said.

Representatives from the arsenal and cemetery said they were proud to see so much support from the community. "It shows the kindness of the human spirit that so many people showed up, that never knew him โ€” so in a sense, his family was here in the military," Baltisberger said.

Right now more than 26,000 headstones lay in uniform lines at Rock Island National Cemetery. They represent the more than 32,000 veterans and family members buried there, dating back as far as the Civil War. "We want to provide a lasting place for them to lay their loved ones to rest," said Matt Tomes, Director of Rock Island National Cemetery. Tomes says, they are running out of room to lay heroes to rest. Right now, the cemetery completes 15-20 burials a week. 

"Generally, if you served on active duty, you are eligible to be buried here" said Tomes. The burial for veterans and their spouses, comes at no cost to the family due to a military benefit covering the cost. "Inside our gates there's no cost. The headstones are free, opening and closing the gravesite is free" said Tomes. That doesn't mean there is no cost for the funeral. Any services held outside of the the burial are separate.

"I hope veterans realize that we're here for them. We're here for the families. We want to provide a lasting place for them to lay their lived ones to rest," said Tomes.

Foster Funeral Services has a memory wall where the public can leave condolences.

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