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Strangers give local veteran proper burial after passing without any known friends or family

Posted at 4:47 AM, Aug 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-13 06:32:05-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A group of staff members from JFK Medical Center and Father Dr. Gabriel Ghanoum met Monday afternoon at South Florida National Cemetery to say a final goodbye to a man they just recently had met.

Robert Kirkland recently passed away from a terminal illness without any known family members or friends.

“We became the family. We became the family by proximity. We became the proxy that really cared for him and did everything,” said Father Gabriel Ghanoum.

When Father Gabriel learned Kirkland had served two tours during the Korean War but wasn’t going to receive a proper military burial, he says he was determined to step up and help.

“His breathing start changing, knowing and holding his hands assuring him you fought for us we are fighting for you,” said Father Gabriel.

Father Gabriel runs an organization in South Florida called No One Buried Alone and is used to helping people without family or friends receive a proper burial, but it’s rare to find a military member in this type of situation.

However, Father Gabriel and another staff member sat with Kirkland during his last 48 hours, holding his hand and comforting him, while at the same time working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure he could be buried with military honors.

“I’ve never met him. I just learned of his name today, but you know I just came out here to support him,” said military veteran Ken Lugo.

About a dozen strangers attended the ceremony at the South Florida National Cemetery, which lasted about 20 minutes.

For anyone who wants to visit his marker they can search for Robert Kirkland in the cemetery’s front office located at 6501 S. State Road 7, Lake Worth, Florida.

The flag that was used on his casket during Monday’s ceremony will now be hung up at JFK Medical Center to honor Kirland’s life and service to his country.