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'These unaccompanied veterans, we’re their family,' Patriot Guard transports cremains

Unclaimed veterans receive overdue honors. (ABC 7 Amarillo - Tatiana Toomer)

Patriot Guard Riders from across the state gathered at A to D Mortuary Services Thursday morning to begin the transport of five unclaimed veterans to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

“It’s their right to have this last honor. Some of the homeless that are out there, are veterans. And when they pass and no one claims them, we still claim them as brothers. So them being vets, we have to honor them, we’ll respect them as such, and we’ll give them their honors for their burial,” said Don Williams, Vietnam veteran.

Joel Carver, Co-Owner of A to D Mortuary Services said the partnership with the Missing In America Project came about after beginning to research the unclaimed veterans in Potter, Randall and other surrounding Texas Panhandle counties.

"I'm appreciative of those who served our country and it means a great deal to me to see our community come together like this," Carver said. "People from all over the state have come to honor these veterans and that's what it's all about."

The Texas Patriot Guard Riders rode their motorcycles as they were escorted by a police motorcade. The funeral service will be held Friday in the assembly area of the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. One veteran said, it is their duty to make sure all those who have served receive their proper honors and burials.

“They shouldn’t be left on a shelf, unclaimed, family-less, and just waiting for someone to inter them in a national cemetery. They have a right to be buried there," acknowledged Jean Clark, Patriot Guard.

Air Force Veteran and Central Texas Patriot Guard Rider Hank Bettis said it's a calling to participate in these rides after his father and grandfather were also veterans.

"It's near and dear to me, these gentlemen and women who are serving and give the ultimate sacrifice," Bettis said. "It's the least we could do to bring them home."

The Guard made stops for fuel and breaks along the way, including Lubbock. That's where local veterans were waiting to also take part in honoring their fellow comrades.

"It's an honor for us to be here to send them on their way home," Lubbock/Post VFW Member Armando Dayton said. "They were lonely for a long time but now they are headed home."

Folks in communities along the route lined the roadway and bridges and overpasses with flags and crossed hearts to pay tribute to the heroes.

"It really rings true the fact that we as Americans really stand for our military and enjoy the freedoms and thank them for the freedoms that they have given their life to preserve," Bettis said.

"It just proves that patriotism in this country is not dead-by a long shot," Patriot Guard Rider Dana Haselgrove said.

Haselgrove was one of four riders to be carrying the remains of one of the veterans.

"I'm taking my fellow brother that served with me in Vietnam to his final rest," Haselgrove said. "It's just an honor beyond belief."

There are thousands of unclaimed and unidentified veterans across the country. Next week, the North Texas Patriot Guard will hold another ceremony for 20 other veterans.

“These unaccompanied veterans, we’re their family. To do this, to stand a flag line for them and honor them is a privilege," said Brian Adams, Patriot Guard. “Most of the Patriot Guard Riders are veterans and to think that a veteran is actually being buried and doesn’t have any family standing by, is a tough situation,” Adams expressed.


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