Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces traditionally have a flag draped over their coffin as a reminder to others of their service. The flag, after being folded properly, is presented to a survivor.
Gun salutes often are rendered as part of the funeral service. Obituary notices are accompanied by pictures of the country's flag in this and most other newspapers.
In short, those taking part in a veteran's funeral have multiple reminders of the individual's service to country.
Bystanders and passersby of the funeral procession, however, generally have no idea the person being laid to rest once helped defend this proud nation. Unless, of course, that procession includes other veterans displaying the Stars and Stripes on the back of their motorcycles.
Locally, that's a task taken on by the American Legion Riders of Hays Post No. 173. If the family requests, the Riders will show up in force for the funeral procession. Since the bikers can't simply show up uninvited, that request is a necessary step.
And it apparently isn't always taken.
"There have been numerous veterans that have passed away that nobody knew we were doing this, for sure," said Lambert Staab, director of American Legion Riders at Post 173. "(The families) just assumed we were going to be there."
Hoping such incorrect assumptions do not happen again, Staab and fellow Legion members are getting the word out. The Riders stand at the ready, willing to escort every single deceased veteran to the cemetery. It is a fitting and moving tribute, one which all veterans deserve but not every one receives.
The American Legion Riders believe in the cause, and receive self-satisfaction for payment.
"You get a very good feeling," said Gorden Burgardt, co-director for the local Riders program, "knowing that you helped honor a man or woman that gave their all for the country."
We fully appreciate and support the honorable service offered by Hays American Legion Post No. 173 -- and other posts across the region and state. We encourage families to take advantage. All it takes is a phone call.
To request the services of the American Legion Riders from Hays Post No. 173, call Staab at (785) 623-0921 or Burgardt at (785) 259-2128.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry