“I didn’t want him to be buried alone.” With those words LeRoy P. Wooster, owner of LeRoy Wooster Funeral Home in Atco, N.J., set off a chain of events which led to American Legion members from across New Jersey, other VSOs, motorcycle clubs, elected officials and ordinary citizens attending the burial of Vietnam Army veteran Peter Turnpu.
Turnpu was found dead Dec, 9. Local police contacted Wooster for assistance. Wooster determined that Turnpu had no family or friends. His research found that Peter was born in Estonia and immigrated to the United States in 1955, became a citizen in 1963 and served in the Army from 1964 to 1966, including a tour in Vietnam.
Wooster contacted Ed O’Neil, sergeant at arms of the American Legion Camden County Committee, to see if he knew someone who could conduct a burial service. O’Neil knew just the man: Truitt Andress, Camden County commander and associate pastor at Sicklerville United Methodist Church.
Andress, a retired 24-year Army veteran, sent out the word to local Legionnaires asking them to attend the service. Local media picked up the story. Social media was alive with the story.
On a cold Friday afternoon, hundreds gathered at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown New Jersey to give Pete the burial he deserved. Andress began his service with the singing of God Bless America. He then gave an emotional service, citing Psalm 23. He was assisted by County Vice Commander Bruce Weaver, who provided a reading from scripture.
An honor guard from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst stood at attention at either end of the flag-draped casket.
Tom Engkilterra, regional coordinator of the National League of POW/MIA Families, was presented with the American flag that draped Turnpu’s casket.