Vets helping vets: Unclaimed Marine gets rolling final tribute

A veteran with no family got a proper sendoff thanks to a group of strangers.

Robert Krause, who served as a Marine in the 1950s, received a motorcycle escort on Wednesday from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

"I've heard it said that a veteran dies twice: once on the battlefield and the second time when people stop saying his name," said Nick Morales, a veteran of both the Marine Corps and U.S. Army. "If there's anything we can do to prevent the latter, so be it."

Morales and other volunteer riders escorted Krause's hearse from the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

"Escorting this veteran with no family to his final rest place is the last thing we can do to help this veteran," said David Allen, who rallied fellow members after recently discovering that a dozen or more veterans pass away unclaimed each year, just in the Tampa Bay area.

Morales said it is an honor to participate, because no veteran should be buried alone.  

“Our motto is 'vets helping vets,'” he said. “We’re not going to let any vet go to their final resting place by themselves. We all have a common bond of service – our service, what we’ve done for our country. And regardless of what we’ve done after our service, we still have that bond.”

Image 1 of 6

Once every quarter, the Florida National Cemetery holds a group service for indigent and unclaimed veterans, but cemetery officials said they welcome services for individuals as well.

"This is the last opportunity that, as a combat veteran myself, I have to show respect for this veteran. If it's not for us stepping up to do this for these veterans, many would go on to have a service at Bushnell with no one present," Allen said.

Robert Krause's service ended with Taps.

"It's not just Taps for Mr. Krause, it's Taps for all of us who are fallen. It's embedded in us," Morales added.