On a chilly, overcast morning, several dozen people gathered at Bakersfield National Cemetery and stood at attention as nine names were read, a brief pause following each one.

Those named were a recent group of veterans interred at the cemetery without any family to pay respects.

Those in attendance Thursday, however, rectified that during a ceremony bestowing full military honors on the veterans. 

Sharon Langham said her husband was a veteran, and her son and grandson are both veterans. It broke her heart, she said, to think of veterans buried without any family or loved ones present. 

"I just love the military," she said. "Without them we're nothing."

She and others planned the trip to the cemetery after the Kern County Veterans Service Department spread the word asking the public to show up and help "render respect and tribute to those veterans who may be gone but are not forgotten."

U.S. Army veteran Howie Wass, 76, attended as a member of the Bakersfield Freedom Riders to give a flag salute to the veterans. He said it was the biggest turnout he's seen for one of these ceremonies, which are scheduled to be held quarterly.

"We do it because we feel we should," Wass said. "It's sad that there was no one there to say goodbye to them."

Freedom Riders held flags that flapped in the wind as a few brief comments were made and the crowd stood, bundled in jackets against the cold breeze. 

The following were honored Thursday: Thomas Gentry, U.S. Navy; Michael Sierra, U.S. Air Force; Roger Gill, U.S. Navy; Warren Akers, U.S. Army; Roni Marlow, U.S. Army; Donald Miller, U.S. Navy; Ronald Arnold, U.S. Navy; Estella Rhodes, U.S. Marine Corps; and Robert Pickard, U.S. Army.

U.S. Army veteran Josh Dhanens, of the county's Veterans Service Department, thanked everyone for attending in spite of the less than ideal weather. He said the turnout is a sign of how much the U.S. esteems its veterans.

"Just in general in this country, we recognize people willing to give up their lives in service," Dhanens said afterward. "The community support is fantastic."

Jason Kotowski can be reached at 661-395-7491. Follow him on Twitter: @tbcbreakingnews.

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