© 2018 WFAA
On Wednesday morning at DFW National Cemetery, the Patriot Guard carried another casket to a final ceremony, a final resting place. But, other than two members of the Veterans Administration and employees of a Dallas-area funeral home, they were the only "family" there.
Indigent veterans for whom family members cannot be found, are buried in the thousands each year in the United States. About 40 are interred at DFW National Cemetery each year. On Wednesday members of the North Texas Patriot Guard Riders stood in as the family of George Martin Schaeffer, 58, of Denton.
Records show he had a few rough patches in his life, jail time served for minor offenses. It's the three years he served in the Navy that led the Patriot Guard to stand by his side.
"No veteran should ever be laid to rest alone," said Patriot Guard Ride Captain Mark Littel. "We do know that he served. We do know that he raised his right hand, and said I want to serve my country. So for that reason alone, he deserves all the recognition and all the honor that we can give him."
This same month last year 20 indigent veterans were buried in a single ceremony at DFW National Cemetery. Thirteen of them were buried without the Veterans Administration able to find any next of kin. One of them was Bobby Gleason, 71, who died alone in a Dallas-area hotel. His sister in Oakwood, Texas, who hadn't been able to find him in more than 20 years, saw his name on WFAA. It solved a mystery for the family he'd left behind.
"That means the world to me," Margie Johnson said of the honor bestowed on her brother and the other veterans that April day last year. "Because he was actually being honored today. It's sad for me, but it's a blessing also that they thought that much."
And for George Martin Schaeffer, that's what they're hoping for now. Someone must be looking for him. Someone must want to know what happened. Someone must want the honor of receiving the American flag from his casket that this morning was handed to a representative of the VA instead.
"However, we are the family. And I have solace in that. That he didn't go alone. He did get this proper sendoff that he deserved," said Patriot Guard member Sylvia Miller.
And they will be ready to stand for the next veteran too - not letting any of them simply fade away.
"These are the heroes of our nation," said Littel, "and we can't forget them."
The North Texas Patriot Guard Riders attended services for 763 veterans last year alone. If you would like more information, or would consider being a volunteer, click here to go to their website.