CASPER, Wyo. – The funeral for Remigio ‘Ray’ Barela was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., but every seat and almost every available place to stand along the Oregon Trail State Veteran’s Cemetery chapel was filled an hour earlier.
As word got out that a WWII Marine who died on Feb. 11, 2020, and had outlived his known family, Wyoming made sure he wouldn’t be forgotten.
Mike Byers, state captain for the Wyoming Patriot Guard Riders, stood amazed as the parking lot at the cemetery filled to capacity and overflow cars lined the road.
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“It means everything to come out and honor this man,” said Byers.
“No family left, except for all this family lined up down this road and sitting inside this chapel,” said Byers, a Vietnam Army veteran. “That’s his family. It means everything. Every veteran deserves that.”
Barela, born and raised in the rugged San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, served as a Marine in WWII from 1942 to 1946. After his service, he was a mechanic, farmer and sheepherder before eventually retiring in Casper.
When Bustard’s & Jacoby Funeral Home contacted Byers last week to tell him Barela no family members could be found, Byers started getting the word of his funeral out on social media.
On Friday, hundreds lined up quietly inside and outside of the chapel as the 101-year-old Marine was given full military honors.
Casper Police Department Chief Keith McPheeters read a letter from Gov. Mark Gordon during the service.
“Wyoming is proud to remember and honor one of our own,” wrote the governor. “We here today demonstrate that here in Wyoming, our veterans are never alone. We remember your service, and are grateful for it.”
“I’m sure it means a lot to him, I’m sure he sees what’s going on,” said Byers, looking out at the mass of strangers showing their respect for a WWII veteran.