More than 100 people attend funeral of homeless veteran who lived under Joliet bridge

ELWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- More than a hundred people turned out to pay their final respects to a homeless veteran who for many years had lived under a bridge in Joliet.

Army veteran George Babcock was laid to rest Friday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. He died last month at age 79.

"I am just blown away. I am so awed by this and that George is finally getting his due, and people are respecting him for the service that he gave to our country," said Sandra Perzee, executive director of Joliet homeless shelter MorningStar Mission.

Babcock served in Vietnam from 1963-1965, later working at Argonne National Laboratory. But he fell on hard times and was homeless for 18 years.

For nine of them, he lived under a bridge in Joliet.

Babcock suffered from dementia and had mental health issues.

"Underneath it all, he was a very kind soul," Perzee said.

On Friday, Babcock received a 21-gun salute as honor guards and complete strangers who heard about his story came out to salute the veteran.

"George was fiercely independent. Once he made a decision, he stuck to it and you were hard-pressed to get him off of it," said Kristina McNichol, superintendent of the Will County Veterans Assistance Commission. "His favorite foods were canned salmon, Coca-Cola and potato chips."

McNichol received the honorary American flag because Babcock had no known family. She was overwhelmed by the turnout.

"I am also happy that when he passed away, he was housed and safe and clean and fed and you know, had clothes," McNichol said.
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