Local group attends funerals for strangers at Miramar National Cemetery

The Patriot Guard Riders gear up for tough mission
Posted at 10:16 AM, Aug 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-27 13:16:04-04

MIRAMAR, Calif. (KGTV) - A cemetery is a place where tears fall and hearts ache. For those who die alone, a group of veterans shatters the silence every Tuesday morning. 

At least a dozen Patriot Guard Riders honor "Veterans Without Family" every Tuesday morning at Miramar National Cemetery. 

Billy"Smokestack" Foerschler started it on his own years ago. 

"They require the honor, and it's our honor to do it," he said in a previous interview.

He did not see himself as a Vietnam vet since he served on a ship. 

"I was never on the ground in Vietnam," as his voice cracked. 

He never felt he gave enough. So he started attending funerals alone to pay his respects. 

His brothers in arms started riding with him and standing beside him. 

"That got to me still does," he said through tears.

The Patriot Guard Riders became his brothers and did things like cross country rides to honor vets. 

"This was the very first time I felt like a Vietnam veteran," he added.

Regional ride captain, Lorenzo Lizarraga, is among those who was by his side. 

"The bond is incredible," Lizarraga said. "You can't describe it. There are no words to describe. It's something you feel inside."

On Tuesday mornings, The Patriot Guard riders only have the name, rank, and branch of service of the veteran. 

Their hearts are heavy every time, but they said it is a little easier to give a final salute to a stranger.

"The ones that were close to you, those are the ones that are hard to live with," Lizarraga explained. 

In six years, Smokestack attended more than 400 funerals for vets.  Now, they are gearing up for his. 

"I lost a brother," Lizarraga said. 

Their next ceremony will be smokestack's last. 

He will be laid to rest in a private ceremony. The vets are hoping people will show up to help Smokestack's legacy live on. You do not have to be a veteran. 

"Veterans Without Families" takes place every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. at Miramar National Cemetery.