A couple of hundred people gathered Sunday at the Paso Robles District Cemetery on a fall brisk morning to honor veterans.
The annual Veterans Day Ceremony, Nov. 11, began with a fly-over by Paso’s own Estrella Warbirds shortly after 11 a.m.
VFW Post 10965 Commander Salvador Cota was the master of ceremonies and welcomed the crowd to the event that was “Honoring Veterans Past, Present, and Future.”
“It is truly an honor to join with you today as we recognize all of America’s veterans — all of the soldiers, sailors, airman, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who have selflessly gone wherever they were call on to serve,” Cota said.
Korean War veteran Ken Riedel spoke about his father’s World War I artifact. This Veterans Day marks the 100th anniversary of the end WWI.
The WWI milestone and courage were common threads throughout the ceremony.
US ASA Camp Roberts First Sgt. Jeffrey Moseley recalled visiting a WWI memorial in Moscow, Russia on Veterans Day two years ago on a cold, wet day.
“It was a cold wet day...watching icicles form on the brim of my hat, I noticed something that starkly contrasts the Veterans Days that I had witnessed on US soil,” Moseley said. “We were cold, we were wet and we were afraid that every step we took would send us sliding down an ice-covered sidewalk. But we were happy. Smiles were about, the mood was jovial. We were truly celebrating a victory for the world.”
Mosely added that during the reception that followed two years ago, soldiers from around the world told stories of and celebrated their freedom.
“To our allies, this day is about so much more than just veterans,” Moseley said. “It is a celebration of the end of an occupation. It is the celebration of their freedom; it is the celebration of the men and women who made that freedom possible; and it is the celebration of us, the United States of America who played a pivotal role in keeping Europe free.”
Fort Hunter Liggett Staf Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Kenneth Biskner was the featured guest speaker of the ceremony.
Biskner told of doing some shopping at a Paso Robles grocery store and seeing a wall adorned with photos of 99 area veterans.
“I asked one of the employees if they were all locals,” Biskner said. “He got this look of pride on his face and said, ‘Yeah, every one of them. They are all locals. And I know that because my grandson is up there.’”
Biskner said he went across the street to another store to do more shopping and again as he was going through the checkout line saw a wall covered with photos of area veterans.
“During my 30 years in the Army, I have lived in a lot of places, but few of those communities display the kind of pride in their veterans that I find here in Paso Robles,” Biskner said.
Biskner said Paso Robles is a place were courage can be found and over the course of his 11-minute speech highlighted Paso Robles veterans such as Col. Thurman Irving and Lt. Col. Chuck Miller.
“It’s (courage) in the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, loved ones and friends serving our country around the world today,” Biskner said. “It’s in this gathering. The veterans with us today have sacrificed much for the freedom we enjoy. It is in the hallowed ground that we stand on that marks the final resting place of heroes that paid the price of freedom before us.”
Irving commanded the 903rd Field Artillery Battalion, 78th Infantry Division in the Battle of Bulge during World War II. During his 38-year career, he received the Legion of Merit twice and the Bronze Star twice. He spent his retirement here in Paso Robles. He was a charter member and former commander of VFW Post 10965.
Miller served two tours in Vietnam and his long list of awards includes the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star twice, the Meritorious Service Medal twice, and the Air Medal 11 times.
Miller was Paso Robles first airport manager and an active member in the community until his passing in 2014.
“Heroes like Col. Irving and Lt. Col. Miller are buried right here besides hundreds of other veterans. Courage,” Biskner said. “This community has answered the nation’s call to arms in every conflict since it was organized in 1889.”
The invocation and closing prayer were led by Fort Hunter Liggett Chaplain Maj. Levi Marshall. Fort Hunter Liggett HHC XO First Lt. Wanda Carr sang the national anthem and led the crowd in the singing of patriotic songs.
Local Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts led the Pledge of Allegiance. Members of VFW Post 10965, American Legion Post 50 and Sons of American Legion conducted a three-volley salute. Boy Scout member Alex Von Dohlen performed “Taps.”
The Paso Robles Fire Department had a large American flag draped from its ladder on truck 8141 at the entrance to the cemetery.
Following the ceremony, the crowd enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, provided by the cemetery, and a hot dog lunch, courtesy of Kuehl-Nicolay Funeral Home.
Flags were placed at all identified veterans graves by members of the American Legion Post 50 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10965.