The backstory to this veteran’s funeral will choke you up
A sad end for Peter Turnpu.
Peter died at 77. He served in Vietnam but died alone having left little behind to tell the story of his life. He had no surviving relatives. He had come to America from Estonia with his mother and in 1954 became a citizen. He was honorably discharged from the military after serving in Vietnam from 1964 to 1966. He was divorced 39 years ago.
Among the few possessions found in his Waterford home was a letter from the local Veterans Administration and immigration papers for him and his mother. Nothing was found more recent than 30 or 40 years ago. Sounds like a lonely end. Because he was all alone in the world, his funeral was destined to be a near anonymous affair.
Enter Leroy Wooster, a funeral director who found out this man had no one, and faced the choice between leaving him at the Medical Examiners office to be buried in Potters Field, or he could donate his time, casket and everything else to see to it that he went to a veterans cemetery for a proper burial. Leroy couldn't let a veteran go like that. He stood up. He donated his time and inventory. He began a campaign for assistance. The VA promised to provide a military honor guard for the service and pay for a burial plot even though the government is currently shut down. An American Legion Post from Pine Hill was to participate in the service with the honor guard coming from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Wooster started a campaign to get mourners to attend even though they never met the man just so Turnpu wouldn't be laid to rest alone.
Camden County Freeholder Bill Moen spoke out on the situation, saying, "I don't know this gentleman's backstory. The effects of war or combat could have affected how this gentleman ended up in an unfortunate situation. But all of those things combined is why something like this is important for the community to give him a proper send off."
The services were to be held Friday. RIP Peter Turnpu. Thank you for your service.
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