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Patriot Guard Riders, volunteers honor late veterans for Christmas

It's a yearly tradition that PGR has taken part in for the past five years

ODESSA, Texas — Christmas is a time of giving but also a time to remember those who are no longer with us.

The Patriot Guard Riders do their yearly tradition of honoring those who served our country.

Every Christmas, Sunset Memorial Gardens in Odessa is where the Patriot Guard Riders and their volunteers have been visiting for the past five years.

"We got to come out and show the people that we're not going to let them be forgotten," said Russel King with the Patriot Guard Riders.

It starts on the memorial of U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class Alfred Wilson and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marvin Rex Young. A wreath goes up to honor each of the Odessa men this holiday season. The two sacrificed their lives to save their fellow comrades in Vietnam.

Sunset Memorial Gardens is where thousands of our biggest hometown heroes are laid to rest. You'll find 25 flags at the sites of veterans who were killed in action.

Each name gets a wreath placed on top of a veteran's memorial. Their names and a "thank you" are said aloud.

"So we go out, lay a wreath down, salute them, and say their name again so their name will always be said," said King.

Beatris Mata has been coming to Sunset Memorial a lot recently to see her family. One of them is her grandfather, Andres Mata, who served in the Army during World War II and died ten years ago.

 "He was the most generous person who I've ever met," said Beatris. "He just gave and gave until his last days."

Her grandfather is one of the many heroes being honored, with a wreath also placed on his resting place.

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"I think its beautiful," said Beatris. "I was just sitting down and watching them place them down and taking a moment to give them a moment of respect. I think the sight is great and I love that there's so many around here just valuing the time they took out of their lives to serve our country."

Many veterans at the cemetery have served as far back as World War I, II, some as far as the Civil War. Some graves have flowers and flags while others have no visitors until now. 

Heidi Beardslee was at Sunset Memorial when she saw all the volunteers placing wreaths down. She asked for a wreath for her late first husband, a veteran who served in the Army.

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"I thought this was wonderful, I didn't know what to expect so I had to stop to ask," said Beardslee. "I think it's nice."

Because with a little Christmas touch, it's never too late to say thank you.

"It's our honor. It really is. It's something to help them out," said King. "To show them that we all care. That's what makes it nice for all of us."

Through the season of giving, this is how the Patriot Guard Riders remember the names of those who are gone but certainly, never forgotten.

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