Patriot Guard Riders honor veterans

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jan 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-11 01:32:11-05

The space often filled with grieving loved ones was an empty field, with the exception of two member of the Honor Guard.

It was the morning of Private First Class John Devane’s funeral. A group of strangers showed up for an Army veteran's funeral at Miramar National Cemetery on Tuesday.

They are part of the Patriot Guard Riders.

The rumble of motorcycles broke the silence at the cemetery, and the presence of one dozen riders broke the empty space.

The riders don't do it for money or recognition; in fact, 10News sought them out.

Billy Foerschler was the one who organized it.

“All I knew about him was his name,” Foerschler said. “This is the only ceremony that he'll ever have, and it's the last one."

Foerschler shouted a command and the group raised their American flags.

“We're gathered here today for a final tribute for Private First Class John Devane,” Foerschler said to them.

Foerschler served in the Navy for six years.

"I was never on the ground in Vietnam,” Foerschler said, his voice shaking. 

He did not see service members fall since he was on a ship, so he is not haunted by the horrors of war.

"I didn't think too much of being a veteran," he added.

He joined the Patriot Guard Riders in 2010. They did a cross-country ride and stopped at a Vietnam memorial in Texas. It showed two service members helping an injured soldier.

“That got to me,” he said as he started to cry. “It still does.”

He said it represents a bond between all veterans.

“That was the first time I felt like a Vietnam veteran,” he added.

Soon after, Foerschler decided to honor the veterans in his own way. He found out funeral dates for veterans without family and attended - standing at attention alone. 

Now. At least a dozen Patriot Guard Riders go to Miramar National Cemetery every Tuesday to honor them.

While Foerschler did not lose friends in Vietnam, he has surrounded himself with sacrifice on home soil.

He has attended more than 400 funerals in six years, so those who served bravely do not leave alone.

“They require the honor, and it's our honor to do it,” Foerschler said. 

You do not have to be part of the group or have a motorcycle to show your support. Everyone is welcome to honor vets without family every Tuesday morning at Miramar National Cemetery at 8:30 a.m.