BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Everyone deserves to have someone there to say goodbye when the time comes. But the harsh truth is that not everyone does and the harsher truth is that some of those people put their lives on the line for the rest of us.
With that in mind, the Bakersfield National Cemetery held a special ceremony to memorialize veterans who were interred there over the past year without the participation of family members. Unaccompanied veterans, they call them, brought to their final resting place alone – but for the brotherhood of fellow veterans.
Seven veterans – all previously interred – were recognized on Wednesday.
Fellow veterans Jim Rice and Jim Carmichael were there to salute them.
“We never forget,” Rice said. “We’re all brothers. It’s part of the brotherhood.”
“There were seven of them,” Carmichael said. “They died alone. No family, no relatives, there was absolutely nothing. Just like he’s saying, it’s a brotherhood. We never forget them. They think they’re alone, they’re not. They’re in our hearts, and we’re here to honor them.”
Cindy Van Bibber, director of the Bakersfield National Cemetery, said Americans have an obligation to remember all veterans.
“We all have a story,” she said. “We don’t know what their story was, but we know they were veterans and at one time they put their lives on the line and sacrificed that for us, so the least we can do is take some time out of our day to honor them.”
Wednesday’s ceremony was the first of its kind at the national cemetery since 2019 – the first without restrictions on the number of attendees – and the crowd was substantial. That, Rice said, was good to see.
“It’s very important for me to see this type of turnout in a community,” Rice said. “That’s why I live here. Because this community cares so much for the veterans. “
This fiscal year the Bakersfield National Cemetery had had 785 interments, bringing its total to 9,715. All had both fanfare and family. After today, the same can be said for seven Army veterans – Chris Latronis, Connie Johnston, Anthony Anderson, Robert Brandt, Steven McCaslin, Bobie Swanson and John Ardoin.