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Dozens travel to funeral of Vietnam veteran they've never met: "He deserves every bit of this"

A Vietnam veteran’s final salute
A Vietnam veteran’s final salute 02:04

SPOONER, Wis. -- People from across the Midwest traveled to western Wisconsin to pay their respect to a man they never met.

Barron County Veteran Service Office let the community know that Vietnam veteran Gayle Seefluth would be buried in Spooner today. As WCCO's Jennifer Mayerle reports, with no next of kin, strangers showed up to honor him.

They all came.

"I thought mileage doesn't matter, it's just honoring a fellow soldier," Army veteran Marlin Rochester said.

For the same reason.

"Humbling, very humbling to see so many people for a gentleman that did not have family," veteran John Taitt said.

U.S. Marine Gayle Seefluth was given a full military funeral and burial. Neighbor Holly Champagne says he was special to her family.

"He was just a big gruff, grumpy, tall man who was just super nice if you got underneath that exterior," Champagne said.

The Vietnam veteran died in January, and when the friend who was to care for his ashes also died, the county veteran service office planned a funeral and burial. They invited everyone via social media to thank Gayle for his commitment to the country, and to honor his life.

"In the last 5 years, I've done this four times for veterans that didn't have families. So, it's to bring awareness that if it's going to happen here in small Barron County, it's happening all across the United States," Tami Saleska, assistant veteran service officer said.

Legion Riders, veterans, civilians, strangers, all wanted to pay their respect.

"He's a veteran, I'm a veteran so there's kinship even though I never knew the man," Dan Reynard said.

"We are so grateful for people that have made our freedom possible," Vickie Lunceford said.

Her husband David added, "it is a touching situation to honor this veteran."

And for the ones who did know him: they're thankful.

"He deserves every bit of this, he didn't think he did, but he deserves every bit of this," Champagne said.

Gayle is survived by his dog Brandy, who we're told is being cared for by neighbors.

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