Community attends funeral to help lay ‘unclaimed veteran’ to rest

Flag and Flowers in front of Donald Francis Wells
Flag and Flowers in front of Donald Francis Wells(KBJR/CBS3 Duluth)
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 5:30 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN - Friday, dozens of community members attended a funeral for an unclaimed veteran, who had no family or friends to help lay him to rest.

“We use the term unclaimed veteran to describe any veteran that is entered at the State Veterans cemeteries that don’t have family or friends, either living or we’re able to contact,” said Cory Johnson Cemetery Administrator at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Duluth

The ceremony for Donald Francis Wells, a US Army veteran was passed over to the Veteran’s Cemetery by a nearby funeral home.

With no known next of kin to notify, they wanted to make sure people attended his funeral.

“A member of the Duluth Honor Guard, put a Facebook post out that of course, went viral and spread across the community,” said Johnson.

The post went viral, and Friday, community members and local organizations showed up to attend.

“We don’t have family or friends here. But I think we did to an extent make up for that with the community that we had here and with the different organizations that showed up,” Johnson said.

Dozens of people were there.

Veterans in attendance said it was important to give their brother a proper sendoff.

“I think the size of the crowd you see today speaks volumes of how important it is for us fellow veterans on coming out and honoring one of our own,” said Art Hoff, a 25-year veteran of the US Air Force.

Cemetery Staff encourages anyone who might have information about Wells’ family or friends to reach out.

There are several unclaimed veterans laid to rest across the state each year.

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