Dozens of Del Rioans turned out to make sure United States Navy veteran Darius Emery Young Jr. was properly recognized for his service to this country.
The veteran, who passed last week, was laid to rest in a quiet ceremony Friday morning at Westlawn Cemetery. Nearly 100 people from all walks of life and all branches of the military turned out pay their respects for a man who just days ago was a relative unknown to this community and for whom no next of kin could be found.
Chaplain 1st Lt. William Miller from Laughlin Air Force Base oversaw the ceremonies, providing words of comfort and recognition to the people who turned out. Miller reminded those gathered that while they did not know Young during his life, seeing them at the service was a credit to this community’s support of the military.
“Even though we didn’t know him personally, the people here, especially those who served, have that common bond together. Those servicemen and women know what it is to put their life on the line of defense of our freedom, so there’s a common bond there,” Miller said after the ceremony. “Just to see so many people come out shows the support this community has for the military and its veterans.”
Miller shared some details about Young including that he was born in Little Falls, N.Y., and that he joined the navy at the age of 19. Young served from 1956 to 1960, but the rest of his life remains a mystery.
The efforts of Adrian Bitela, Val Verde County Veterans Service Officer; Lawrence Powell, Texas Veterans Commission; and Chris Villarreal, Veterans Coalition of Del Rio, helped arrange for Young’s funeral and subsequent stories on social media and in the Del Rio News-Herald helped bring the public out to pay its respects.
Don Guajardo, funeral director from Trinity Mortuary, said his firm donated the services including the purchase of a cemetery plot.
The hearse from Trinity Mortuary that carried Young’s body to the cemetery was led by a small procession of Patriot Guard Riders, motorcycle riders who are veterans themselves. Once the vehicles came to a rest, a color guard from Laughlin Air Force Base carried Young’s flag-draped coffin from the hearse to the gravesite.
Mike Bridges, the lead rider in the group, is retired from the United States Air Force. He explained that it was an honor to be a part of Young’s ceremony and he fought back tears as he relayed why it was important for people to come out and pay their respects for a veteran they themselves may not have known.
“When he took the oath to defend our country, that’s the same oath every one of us veterans took. That connects all of us to every single veteran,” Bridges said. “We aren’t going to let another veteran pass from one life to the next without someone being there. We may have not been there with them physically when they passed, but we are with them spiritually.”
Miller urged the crowd to come closer to be able to hear his words, and for the next few minutes Miller’s words were the only sounds that could be heard as the group paid its respects.
When Miller was done speaking, members of the honor guard fired a volley of rounds which was soon followed by the playing of “Taps” by a member of a US Navy honor guard which also attended the ceremony.
Following the ceremony, a procession of mourners passed by the coffin and paid their respects with flowers or salutes.