METHUEN (CBS) — Hundreds of people attended a graveside funeral service with military honors for U.S. Navy veteran Eileen Robichaud Friday. Only three of the mourners knew Robichaud personally, though.
“This is really overwhelming for me a little bit,” said veteran Dannielle Relfe. “Because I have so much respect for what she did as a person, even though I never met her.”
Aaron Mizen, the director of Kenneth H. Pollard Funeral Home, asked the public to attend the service after Robichaud’s cousin from California reached out to say the veteran had no local family.
“I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that this would happen,” Mizen said, referring to the crowd of people who gathered to pay their respects.
Three cousins traveled across the country to attend. “Eileen would be very proud and would love every minute of it I think,” one said.
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“Every veteran deserves to be honored for serving our nation. We cannot allow this sailor’s remains and her service to our nation be discarded or forgotten,” Mizen added.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell gave the eulogy. “This is an amazing testament to our country, a country we love,” she said.
“For all of us, or most of us, despite having never known or met Eileen Robichaud, all of us can certainly discern one thing about her and that is the fact that she had a lot of spunk. A lot of spunk. A considerable amount of spunk was required to induce an only child, especially a young woman back in 1953, to enlist out of high school in the Navy.”
“There weren’t many women in our armed forces back then, so Eileen also embarked upon what was a very bold adventure into the unknown,” said Campbell.
She continued, “[Robichaud] must have been a very fun and a very positive person to have known. Eileen would no doubt tell us that she was very proud to have made the choice to serve her country at a time of war. She would also likely add that it was not a big deal. But it’s a big deal for us, a very big deal.
A number of songs were performed during the ceremony, including when a young girl came forward to sing the national anthem.
“I just want to say to all the veterans, thank you for your service, because of you guys we have freedom, because of you we can sing,” said one woman at the conclusion of her song.
Also among the crowd were two former classmates who also came forward to say a few lines and quote their yearbooks.
Another speaker said, “Today, we here claim Eileen as part of our individual and collective family, absolutely 100 percent Eileen has never been alone… Our dearest Eileen know that you are loved, honored and that you leave a profound legacy for all of us to share and emulate.”
Robichaud was 84 years old. She was a decorated Korean War veteran who served in a naval aviation squadron from 1953-1957.