Hundreds of people went to the funeral of a WWII veteran after learning that he had no surviving family to attend.
James McCue, of Lawrence, died last week at a health care center in Methuen. He was 97. An obituary said he had outlived his wife and had no other living family members.
News of the serviceman's burial quickly circulated on social media this week after a veterans advocate called on Massachusetts residents to show up to the services. This prompted many veteran groups and others to attend.
“Just another guy down. We’re running out of [WWII] veterans,” said Calvin Perry, an U.S. Air Force veteran from Andover. “This was one that landed at Normandy and has five battle stars. It’s a worthy day to show up and honor him.”
We’re running out of [WWII] veterans. This was one that landed at Normandy and has five battle stars. It’s a worthy day to show up and honor him.Calvin Perry, an U.S. Air Force veteran
The closest person to McCue to attend his funeral was Doris Sevigny, 91, who had lived below him in an apartment complex for more than 20 years, according to Sevigny’s niece, Diane Brown.
“He was her eyes because she was legally blind, and she was his health care proxy,” said Brown. “It was nice to see them together. They had happiness together. He was a happy man.”
A few years ago, McCue fell ill and moved to Cedar View Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Methuen, said Brown. Sevigny visited him for several years until she too fell ill about three weeks ago and joined him at the nursing home. The two had played bingo the night before McCue died, the niece added.
During the ceremony, military officers gave Sevigny the folded flag from on top of McCue’s casket. Afterwards, Brown asked her aunt what she thought of the service.
“Wonderful, wonderful,” she cried while clutching a picture of McCue.
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Many of the servicemen in attendance called McCue an American hero. Some even admired his participation in combat when others had only served stateside. McCue had enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and fought in the five major battles, including a landing on Utah Beach on D-Day.
While many former military members were glad to still be alive, several expressed concerns that they too would be forgotten.
“Every time I go to one of these, I'm standing around holding my rifle and I do wonder, when my time comes, if there's gonna be anyone around to do it?” said Peter Tuttle, a Marine Corps veteran who served on the rifle guard for the ceremony.
After the service, David Webster, an Army veteran from New Hampshire, lingered to pay his respects to his two uncles who were also veterans buried in the same cemetery.
Webster said his uncles were lucky to make it home; many of their comrades were less fortunate. However, he also said that many returning military members have little to fall back on when they return home, hoping that the funeral inspired people to support veterans.
“A lot of them come back and have nothing, whether it be finances, loss of family, or whatever it might be,” said Webster. “They deserve our support for putting their lives on the line, so it shouldn't be too much to offer them some support.
More photos from the funeral:
This segment aired on February 14, 2019.