Pierre Claeyssens, a philanthropist born in Belgium who passed away here in Santa Barbara in 2003, designated the seed money to bring to life the vision he had of a museum that would salute all veterans. His vision has grown under the leadership of co-founders of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum & Library (PCVM), Lt. John W. Blankenship (USN) & his wife, Hazel Blankenship. “Wanting to give the veterans of Santa Barbara County and beyond, thanks and acknowledge their service will ‘never be forgotten’ is the tenet we hold near and dear,” said Lt. Blankenship. The couple’s excitement spills over to the board, volunteers and all who attend the various events put on throughout the year by the PCVM. “We are premiering our new logo for the organization this weekend – so look for the distinguished logo created by local graphic artist, Cynthia Burt,” said Hazel. “The salute is the one unifying gesture for all the services – so this logo utilizes profiles of uniforms from WWI through Afghanistan – all in a salute in a V-formation,”
You can get a good running start on the weekend in the Santa Barbara Int’l Marathon (now in its fourth year). Officials have dedicated the last mile of the marathon to the Veterans. Official marathon runners’ shirts will have the words: “The first 25 miles are for me, the last mile is for Veterans.” Indeed the last mile of the race – starting at the intersection of Cliff Drive & La Marina Drive (@Shoreline Park) down the hill to Santa Barbara City College La Playa Stadium will be festooned with flags, banners, balloons and military vehicles. Both the full and half marathon will have four T-34s fly-over to mark the start of their respective races.
To see the full and half marathon course, please go to: http://www.sbimarathon.com/
Following the marathon is a fabulous free Concert Program at 2 pm at the Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance St.(@State). The concert will give special honor to the 237th anniversary of the United States Marines with honored guests Brigadier General Fred Lopez (USMC) and SB County Supervisor Salud Carbajal (US Marine Reserve) as speakers. Westmont College Orchestra conducted by Dr. Michael Shasberger along with the combined choruses of San Marcos H.S. under the direction of Carolyn Teroka-Brady. Selections ranging from our National Anthem, to the Marine Hymn (From the Halls of Montezuma) to Dvorak’s 9thsymphony performing the section called “Going Home” with Nathan Rundlett singing the solo.
Saturday evening, the 17th Annual Military Ball begins at 5 pm at Fess Parker's Double Tree Resort where you can mix & mingle, enjoy a delicious meal and then dance those calories off to the Swing Shift Band under the direction of Bob Hensen. Reservations are required to the Ball – RSVP@pierreclaeyssensveteransmuseum.com. Special guest and Keynote speaker is Colonel John Fer USAF, (Ret.) who served in Vietnam and was a POW in the notorious Hanoi Hilton for six years, from 1967 to 1973. This is the first time the Military Ball has had a Vietnam Vet as the keynote speaker. He earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star, two Legion of Merit Medals, two Defense Superior Service Medals, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Prisoner of War Medal.
Two local residents and honored veterans from World War II, Sgt. Major Robert Forties, (US Army) 82nd Air Borne and Pvt. Arthur Petersen (US Army) 101st Air Borne both of whom landed in Normandy on D-Day, will receive “The Greatest Generation Award 2012” from the PCVM and presented by well-known and loved Larry Crandell who served in WWII. This is the first time the PCVM has awarded a Private with this honor, reminding everyone about the mission of PCVM to acknowledge and honor all members of the armed services – from the boots on the ground to the generals in charge – all of them are essential and will “never be forgotten.”
Captain Carolyn Alexa Wagnild a United States Army Apache Helicopter pilot will perform the Missing Man Formation Service at the Ball to honor two of her fallen comrades - Jose Montenegro and Thalia Rodriguez. She returned from deployment inAfghanistan in May 2012. She was the Squadron XO of Delta Company. Capt. Wagnild is a 2006 UCSB ROTC Graduate of the Surfrider Battalion with a degree in global studies.
Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum has assembled ground & air troops for a most memorable weekend. It'll be an “all heads looking up” for this year’s Veterans Day Parade, beginning with an astonishing array of vintage & modern aircraft in a fly-over not seen here before to launch the start of the parade at 12:30 p.m. including: two P-51’s; a B-25; a C-47; four US T-34s and several Yaks 9s, a.k.a. Nanchangs. The WWII Army jeep, fondly named "Pierre" from Pierre Claeyssens Veteran’s Museum, leads the parade driven by co-founder of PCVM & a Vietnam Navy pilot, John Blankenship accompanied by Col. John Fer, USAF Retired (featured keynote speaker @ the Ball). Col. Fer was a POW in the notorious Hanoi Hilton from 1967 – 1973. Co-Recipients of the Greatest Generation Award local residents and honored veterans: Sgt. Major Robert Forties, US Army 82nd Air Borne and Pvt. Arthur Petersen, US Army 101st Air Borne will also be featured in the parade.
Present and accounted for on State Street, the Veterans Day Parade will include members from all of the armed forces; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, UCSB’s ROTC Surfrider Battalion, and the Merchant Marines. Veteran's Day Parade starts at the 1400 block of State (@ Sola St.) and proceeds south down State St., turning west on Cabrillo Blvd. where it finishes at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, 112. W. Cabrillo Blvd. Master Sergeant Jon Parra (US Army Ret) is coordinator of the parade and noted why this year’s parade is not-to-be-missed. “Nearly 200 participants with 15 to 20 military vehicles from many different eras will anchor the parade. Additionally, the 425 USAR Civil Affairs Battalion recently home from Afghanistan will be in the lineup. Most of all the Parade is a great way for everyone to come out and salute our veterans and active duty personnel – the warriors – who have served and continue to serve and protect our country.”
For more information on the community events, call (805)966-1660. Details for the events are available online at the website and on the Facebook page.
Reservations for the Military Ball only can be taken at (805)969-0695 or online by e-mail to: RSVP@pierreclaeyssensveteransmuseum.com.