Strangers give Marine proper burial

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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,” Jim Balcerovich said.

He’s the ride captain for the Colorado Patriot Riders. “Today, the community is his family.”

Hundreds came to honor the 77-year-old.

“We had about one hundred 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. As you can imagine it’s the holiday that will be tough,” Castillo added. “It means a lot to me.”

Castillo lost his son, Kendrick, earlier this year. He was a 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 reflected. “When he was in school, he always looked out for kids without a family, like this soldier.”

Thursday’s ceremony served as a reminder that remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, even those we don’t know, is the least we can do.

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