Local veterans say farewell to Billy Albright
Even with an uncertain weather forecast indicating possible rain in the late afternoon, the roughly two-dozen riders came together at the designed rally point for this mission. For some of them, it was the second such mission on this Friday.
The mission was simple, though important for these riders, the vast majority of whom are veterans. Honor a fellow veteran, as he would be laid to rest at the Miramar National Cemetery. While many in the nation may have forgotten about the warriors from Vietnam, these riders have and will not.
At the invitation of the family of Army veteran Billy Burke Albright, Jr. from El Cajon, this afternoon the riders would escort him to his final resting place. A combat veteran of Vietnam, he had been awarded two Purple Heart medals for wounds sustained in combat—a warrior from his generation and a hero among his fellow veterans.
The bikes began arriving well in advance of the indicated staging time at the designated location just off Route 67 in El Cajon. As the bikers dismounted, the patches on their leather vests and jackets conveyed that these were men of military experience and proud service to their nation. There were unit patches telling of the commands in which some served. And even some military medals and ribbons telling that some had served in Vietnam, as had Albright. The most prevalent patches were the American flag and Patriot Guard Riders.
Handshakes and greetings were exchanged, because many of these men (and women) have joined together in similar missions in the past. While exchanging these greetings, some of the bikers unfurled and mounted large American flags to the rear of their bikes—flags that would wave in the wind while escorting Albright and his family to Miramar.
The word was passed to gather round for the mission briefing, which was, as always, preceded by the Pledge of Allegiance. A short biography of Albright was shared, noting that his father is a U. S. Navy veteran of World War II. The riders were informed Albright is survived by his wife and also leaves behind a sister, a daughter, four sons, and 10 grandchildren.
Albright was a truck driver. So his ashes would be carried from the family home in his tractor, the big semi truck like those seen on the roads of our great nation, as they pull semi-trailers loaded with products and goods. The riders nodded their heads, commenting that was a great touch.
There would also be two police motorcyclists to lead and escort the truck, family vehicles, and motorcycles. The briefing complete, the word was passed to mount up. After a short ride, the riders staged their bikes on the street around the large truck. After some last minute coordination with the police motorcyclists, a flag line was established to honor a dignified transfer of his ashes to the waiting truck. Then all the vehicles started up and lined up in preparation for the ride over to the cemetery.
In the lead behind the police was a missing man formation of three motorcycles, with American flags flying. Then came the truck carrying Albright, followed by family vehicles and the remainder of the motorcycles.
Once at the cemetery and parked at the designated site, the riders again formed up to provide two flag lines. While the somber crowd and family watched, the commands of “Attention” and “Present Arms” were called out. Two soldiers from the local Honor Guard represented the U. S. Army and as the young Captain carried the ashes into the shelter for the ceremony, the riders held their American flags high or presented hand salutes.
After words from the minister, “Taps” was played. The sound of the American flags flapping in the breeze, joined by the sound of weeping and sniffles, combined with the plaintive bugle notes. In somber precision, the two soldiers then folded the American flag, before the Captain knelt and presented it to the widow, on behalf of a grateful nation.
His fellow veterans had joined his family and friends to offer a final farewell to Billy. The weather cooperated, with broken sunshine bathing the area in a warm breeze. Perhaps appropriately, as the ceremony was ending, the sound of an aircraft launching from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar could be heard.