SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- The Patriot Guard Riders lined the street with flags in the hands to show their support for officer Jonathan DeGuzman.
They fought on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and Vietnam. They did it knowing police officers, like DeGuzman were protecting the home front.
“He hadn’t lived a full life,” Patriot Guard Rider, Leo Zapata, said.
He was killed at a time police are facing a lot of hate. It is a feeling Vietnam vets know too well.
“As we drove out the main gate there were a lot of protestors, and they were calling us baby killers,” he said. “It was pretty ugly.”
To ensure none vets feel disrespected like that, Zapata shows up to give them the honor they deserve.
Most of us will end up not admitting to it, but we probably cry at some of the funerals,” Zapata explained. “And, maybe even later.”
He did not know how many times he had escorted a service member and law enforcement officer killed in action. He wears a dog tag around his neck representing each of the rides with their names and service on it. I counted them, and he had been on 46; two of which were on Friday.
Then, he told me the rest of the dog tags were at home.
“They don’t get easier,” Zapata said. “Every one gets harder, and I find these periods where you just kind of have to be off by yourself and just break down.”
I watched his face quiver as he fought back tears when the hearse went by.
When I asked him what he was feeling; he struggled to talk. As he got back on his motorcycle he said, “I’m just trying to keep it together”.
As he headed off, he told me he felt sadness.
He knew his war-torn heart would take another hit. But, he is a Patriot Guard he will tell you he does not do it for himself. He shows up to stand for those who stood for us.