When veterans agent Robin Kernan heard that a recently deceased local World War II veteran was going to be buried with no family attending his funeral, she knew she had to do something.
“He outlived his sweetheart, and his neighbors were his family and his caretakers,” Kernan said. “I don’t know if he has any living relatives.” Malcolm “Mac” W. Phillips of Pembroke died July 9 at age 92. He was laid to rest at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne Thursday. Phillips was born in Weymouth and served in the 3rd Division and the U.S. Navy as a Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class.
Earlier this week Kernan was hoping to recruit some people to go with her to the funeral and posted about it on the American Legion Post 143 Facebook page.
What followed shocked her.
Dozens from the South Shore heeded the call – including police officers, firefighters, paramedics veterans and complete strangers – all coming together to support a man they had never met.
“My heart was so warmed by the outcome. I was just blown away,” Kernan said.
Members of police departments in Pembroke, Duxbury and Hanover gathered outside Sullivan Funeral Home in Hanover Thursday morning to provide an escort to the National Cemetery in Bourne. Things grew from there with other communities getting involved, including Kingston, Marshfield and Plymouth.
“I thought we were going to have maybe six cars, and it ended up being about 50 with fire departments, police departments, first responders lining the roads, overpasses, intersections, off-ramps, on-ramps, all over the place,” Kernan said.
“There were people on the side of the road saluting as we went by.” One of the officers who led the procession was Pembroke police Lt. Rick MacDonald. He heard about Phillips’ funeral late Wednesday night and decided to attend.
“I’m a veteran, and no soldier or airman is going to be left alone,” MacDonald said. “I used to be a motorcycle cop, I did a lot of these escorts, and every one of them was well planned out. This one was just done by social media. It looked like a caravan for the president.” Once the procession got to the cemetery there were even more people waiting. Over 50 people gathered to see Phillips laid to rest.
“There’s just not that many World War II veterans left anymore.
So, to hear about one being alone that’s going to be buried in a national cemetery, people want to be a part of that and show their strength and support,” Kernan said. “World War II veterans have been called the greatest generation.
He’s part of a generation that shaped what we are and who we are today.” Benjamin Paulin may be reached at bpaulin@ledger.