MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A veteran with no family or friends to claim him was laid to rest this week, but his funeral service was still well attended.

On June 6, Army E4-Specialist Paul Markoski passed away at Saint Francis Hospital in Memphis.

Tuesday afternoon, dozens of strangers turned out in the sweltering heat for his funeral at the West Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Forest-Hill Irene Road.

“It was tough. It was tough,” David Sims said.

Sims never met the soldier being laid to rest. In fact, no one in the room had. 

“We know at some point he was down at the VA on Jefferson and then he went to the actual nursing home,” said Rodney Shaw, the cemetery director of the West Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery.

Markoski then went to St. Francis Hospital, where he died. Shaw said the hospital tried to reach out to next of kin.

“Couldn’t locate any next of kin, so they actually reached out to me at the cemetery,” said Shaw.

Sims said he got an email asking that a different kind of family help give Markoski a final goodbye.

“It’s the least I can do,” Sims said.

It wasn’t Sims’ first service for an unclaimed veteran. He says he’s attended six or seven such funerals — and it won’t be his last.

“When I went into the air force in Chattanooga, Tennessee, you raise your right arm and take that oath. You join a family. You are a family,” Sims said.

He served in the Air Force for 25 years. His father was a Naval officer for 30 years and his mother was a Navy nurse in World War II.

“She is buried up there and her ceremony was here,” Sims said.

While he’ll tell you the military runs in his blood, his family goes beyond it. That’s why he and so many other strangers made sure this soldier was not forgotten.

Markoski’s death may have been unclaimed, but his final resting place is with a band of brothers.

To find out about other unclaimed veteran’s services, go to the cemetery’s website. https://www.westtennesseeveterans.com/