BOURNE (CBS) – There was a powerful show of respect and community at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne Thursday – all for a Marine veteran and a stranger.
“The second I saw it I knew there was something I had to do,” said Leeann Bennett.
Malcolm “Mac” Phillips of Pembroke passed away Sunday. The 92-year-old, a Marine who served in WWII, outlived everyone he loved.
“I happened to come across a message,” Bennett said. “There was a 92-year-old man, a veteran of WWII who didn’t have any family and someone reposted it asking if people would go to the funeral to be a part of it to honor him.”
It turns out a lot of people along the South Shore saw that same Facebook post and decided to start their Thursday by paying respects to a hero.
“Within a few minutes there was a group message with all the local presidents and we had confirmation there were departments sending apparatus and personnel to overpasses along the way,” said Hanover Firefighter Chris Azizian.
“Showed up this morning and found out the word had traveled,” said Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Jason Cavallaro. “It wasn’t just Hanover and Pembroke. It was every town from Hanover down to Bourne.”
Caroline Bertozzi, like everyone else, never met Mac. But showed up with flowers and lent her voice in song as he was laid to rest.
“My husband is an Army veteran. My stepson serves in the Marine Corps in the Navy. I thought what if it was them? Going on that last ride on their own?” she said. “I was amazed. I thought there were more funerals, but all the cars were there for him.”
Even without ever knowing him, Mac Phillips is someone they won’t forget.
“Out of respect. It’s the greatest generation. We clearly owe a debt to them. This is a way we thought we could repay it,” said James Brown, President of Plymouth Firefighters Local 1768. “No one deserves to go out like that. Alone. We figured we’d do our best to help him.”
Mac was born in Weymouth, and after serving in WWII he worked at and retired from the Wheeling Steel Company. According to his obituary, he outlived his sweetheart Janice.