'It's heartbreaking': Vietnam veteran with no family, friends honored in Elgin
Not much was known about Stephen Alan Myerson, 72, when he died Sept. 11 at the Citadel Care Center in Elgin.
He had been at Citadel for a handful of months, but he mentioned to officials that he had served in the Marines during the Vietnam War.
Myerson had no known family and died alone, center officials said, so they reached out to Laird Funeral Home to ask for help with arrangements. The Elgin funeral home immediately agreed to donate its services.
"This poor guy was brought out here from Chicago and put in a nursing home down the street, no friends, no family, nobody," said Steven Laird, who owns the business with his brother Rob.
"We're just happy to help those who need help in our community," Laird said. A lifelong Elginite, Laird said his father opened the family business at 310 S. State St. 40 years ago. Steve and Rob bought it in 1997 from their parents.
Laird said complications from the pandemic have made it harder to get information from Veterans Affairs, which caused the delay in honoring Myerson. Limits on the number of people allowed for inside gatherings prevented a traditional funeral service.
Randall Rakowski of Elgin, a fellow Marine Corps and Vietnam War veteran, was among those who came to pay their respects during the 90-minute visitation.
"It's sad that he died alone with no family," Rakowski said. "It makes you feel fortunate for what you have."
Myerson was born Aug. 7, 1948, in Chicago and served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970. He earned a National Defense Service Medal and a Vietnam Service Medal with one star.
Army veteran Herbert Bolding of Elgin said he came out "to pay my respects to a brother."
"It's heartbreaking," Bolding said. "I would hope he would have done the same thing for me if it had happened that way."
A burial with honors was scheduled Tuesday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.