After the COVID-19 pandemic forced a grave site observance to not be possible in 2020, California's VFW Post #4345 returned to regular business this year with a ceremony at the grave site of Richard "Dick" Spieler in California.
Members of the public and veterans gathered Monday morning at Spieler's gravestone in California's Evangelical Cemetery to honor veterans for their service and sacrifice.
Throughout the observance, ceremonies played an important part. Members of the VFW post conducted a grave-side ceremony for fallen veterans, placing adornments around Spieler's gravestone.
Moniteau County 4-H member Kierstyn Lawson was also on hand to speak to the gathered crowd. Lawson invited those in attendance to honor veterans and first responders again later this year as Moniteau County 4-Hers host a 9/11 remembrance at Latham Memorial Family Park. The event will feature a free-will donation meal, with all proceeds supporting the park's veterans memorial.
Lawson also took a moment to voice her appreciation for veterans as she spoke Monday.
"Many of you and other servicemen and women have spent weeks away from home on training exercises or on the battlefield, or taking care of appointment," Lawson said as she addressed the crowd. "The work isn't easy, and the environment is stressful. Servicemen and women have made a (contribution) and made ultimate sacrifices to protect our country. Our country's greatness is built on the foundation of your courage and sacrifice."
Bernie Bestgen was the next speaker at the event. Bestgen took some time to remember Dick Spieler, who he said was rightfully well-loved and respected in the community for his service to his country and his demeanor.
"Most of you knew Dick better than I, and those of you who may not have known him personally know that he was a family man, successful businessman and leader in the community," Bestgen said.
Bestgen recalled Spieler's presence as a past post commander for VFW Post #4345 and spoke about his admiration for how Spieler carried himself. Spieler would remain silent during especially heated discussion, he said, until everyone had finished speaking or someone asked his opinion. Often, Spieler's view would settle the issue as he explained his point in simple, straightforward terms. That respect for others, and his ability to navigate complicated issues, were traits Bestgen said he greatly appreciated.
"I considered Dick Spieler to be a friend of mine, but also someone I admired and could always go to for advice and guidance," Bestgen said. "It was an honor to know him, and he is greatly missed."
A bell ringing ceremony was observed later; VFW member G.R. Shelley read the names of veterans in Moniteau County that had passed away since Memorial Day of 2019, and a bell was rung after each one. Those in attendance paused in solemn reflection as TAPS played near the end of the observance.