Back in August I had the privilege to stand alongside The Patriot Guard Riders, as they payed honor to a Veteran who had been called home.
I sometimes don’t write blog posts as they occur in my life, because I want to give proper justice to something that resonates so deeply within my soul. This post is one of them. And it hit me today that this was the time to post it.
Today is Veterans Day. A day we give thanks to Veterans who have put their life on the line to serve our country and protect its people. Although I feel we should do this everyday. We have probably all seen a flowing stream of Thank You’s all over social media today, thanking our Veterans. So I want to talk about how a group of people come together to pay honor to those who pay the ultimate sacrifice. They stand at funerals holding Old Glory, they escort family members from funeral homes to their final resting places, they do honor flights for service members. They stand up for those who stood for us.
They are, The Patriot Guard Riders.
On this particular day, I had volunteered to stand alongside Veterans, parents of service members, and volunteers like me for the final mission for a homeless veteran named, Angel. The funeral home posted that they were not sure if he had family and funeral services and interment were happening in a few days. The Patriot Guard Riders had stepped up to show gratitude for his services and to honor him on his final journey.
That morning we assembled at the entrance to Calverton National Cemetery, in Calverton NY. I was greeted by one of The Patriot Guard Riders, Gene who instructed us to take stand at the entrance as we were each given an American Flag to hold. Accompanying me was my friend’s son and her nephew. Her son had done this before but it was a first for her nephew and I.
This was not the only funeral to be had this somber day, and each time a procession was entering the cemetery we would stand at attention proudly holding the flags as the hearse and accompanying limos ushering family members drove by. Chills are all I could feel with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I did not know the story of all of the Veterans who entered that day, but knowing that I could at least stand for them on their final journey made a simple “Thank you for your service” seem a little more appropriate.
Once the procession began to flow in, the amount of riders that followed increased tenfold. Obviously at that point my attention and priority was solely on the service and not taking photos. We packed up the flags and headed into the cemetery to regroup and begin again. We lined the walkway in a sea of flags and tears as the service began for, Angel.
The stories that began to be told by the officiant expressed a deep love of country from a man who, although homeless would often be the one donating time, food, clothing and even money to a local church. How can one person, who is without shelter be so full of selflessness and a giving nature. Yet often we see people who have an over abundance of material wealth, giving so little of themselves to the less fortunate? A particular story was of a day he had needed new socks. The church’s outreach had bought a package of socks, and since Angel only needed one pair he wanted to donate the rest to someone who may need it more than him. He would put money in the church’s offering basket, he would donate food to the pantry. To say that tears were flowing from every person in attendance is far from an exaggeration. The heat was strong that day, and standing for Angel for about 2 hours was the least we could do, for all he had done.
I don’t know his whole story, just snippets of a life of service. How he became homeless is not within my knowledge. But the case of Veterans who become homeless after service is overwhelmingly staggering. As well as depression, PTSD and a myriad of other problems to follow.
More should be done for those who have done so much for all of us. They courageously and selflessly put their lives on the line so that we as common citizens can enjoy the lives we have built.
How about we take the time Everyday to thank them for their service. Buy them a cup of coffee, a meal at a restaurant, volunteer some time to a Veterans charity, or organization. Take a little time out of the day you are so lucky to have to pay it forward.