Strangers attend funeral of Marine who had no family or friends

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A bugle playing taps echoed across the Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs on Thursday morning. A military funeral here is common. On this day, Duane Lawrence, a Vietnam-era veteran, was laid to rest.

Lawrence was a Marine with no known family or friends. That’s why the director of the cemetery asked the Colorado Guard Riders to stand for him. And they did.

“It’s a tragic and sad event that he had no family,” said Jim Balcerovich, the ride captain for the Colorado Patriot Riders. “Today, the community is his family.”

Dozens of riders joined Balcerovich, and hundreds of other strangers came to honor the 77-year old.

“We had about 100 riders respond to our invitation,” Balcerovich said. “You can see all the cars and people lined up. There’s a bunch more.”

John Castillo was among those compelled to make the drive down from the Denver area.

“We felt the best way to support our military is to be part of ceremonies like this,” Castillo said.

“It means I was able to be part of something bigger than myself,” Castillo said. “As you can imagine it’s the holiday that will be tough. It means a lot to me.”

Castillo lost his son, Kendrick, earlier this year. He was the student who rushed a gunman at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, sacrificing his life to save others.

“His grandfather being a Marine, there’s no doubt in my mind he would have been here today,” Castillo said. “When he was in school, he always looked out for kids without a family–like this soldier.”

Those present at Thursday’s ceremony reminded us that remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice–even those we don’t even know–is the least we can do.

“People sign up to sacrifice their life for others, we must never forget that,” Castillo said.

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