WJTV News Channel 12 - Group honors fallen veterans at Bay Pines every month

Group honors fallen veterans at Bay Pines every month

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The first Tuesday of each month, around 3:00, the rumble of motorcycles starts to blanket an otherwise quiet and solitary Bay Pines National Cemetery.

As the Patriot Guard Riders pull up to a rear shelter on the grounds, it becomes clear that the monthly journey here has become an emotional mission for this group, mostly consisting of veterans.

"If we end up in this same predicament - this same situation - we would hope that somebody would remember us if even just for a moment and thank us for our service," said rider Randall McNabb, who served in the U.S. Army's Military Police Corps. "That's not the primary reason we do it, but it's in the back of our minds. "

Instead the riders, accompanied by others from the American Legion and other groups, gather here primarily with a purpose: to make sure no veteran is ever forgotten.

"I get a list from the office - who they buried the month before without a service or without families," said Robert Cannon, who served in Vietnam as a Marine. "Therefore we have no veteran that's buried here without having full honors."

This month's was the largest list they've seen yet: 27 names. One had family who attended the service Tuesday. Many of the others on lists each month have lost family, became homeless, or moved to the area from somewhere else.

"These veterans have served this country and they deserve honor and respect," McNabb said. "They might've not gotten any of that throughout their lifetime. At least we can show it at the time of their passing."

The fallen are honored by an Honor Guard, gun salute, taps, and prayer service. The Patriot Guard has been involved with the program for nearly 5 years and it's turned into a national program, with other chapters across the country attending similar services.

"It was a little touch-and-go from the beginning because we don't just show up at things. We have to be invited," McNabb said. "But in this case there's no family to invite you. So we determined that we're the family...and we're invited. We all at one point in time signed our names on that blank check that was payable, up to and including our lives, to serve this country. That makes us brothers and sisters in arms... forever."

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