Marking the 93rd observance of Veterans Day, the weekend of Nov. 10-11 in Santa Barbara will have four great events for everyone to attend to honor the veterans from all conflicts and wars of the 20th and 21st centuries.
In addition to the three free community events — marathon, concert and parade — the 17th annual Military Ball will take place that Saturday evening and is open to the public for the price of a ticket, but reservations are required by this Thursday, Nov. 1.
Having Col. John Fer as keynote speaker marks the first time a Vietnam veteran has addressed the high-profile event, which usually draws more than 500 people. Another first for PCVM is awarding a private with a Greatest Generation Award. Both Fer and Pvt. Petersen will be in the parade along with Sgt. Major Robert Forties, who is also receiving a Greatest Generation Award.
Pierre Claeyssens, a philanthropist born in Belgium who passed away 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 Blankenship (U.S. Navy) and 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,” Lt. Blankenship said.
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,” Hazel Blankenship said. “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’ll see the new design on the runners’ shirts, on banners and flags at all four events.
You can get a good running start on the weekend in the Santa Barbara International 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 and La Marina Drive (at Shoreline Park) down the hill to Santa Barbara City College La Playa Stadium will be festooned with flags, banners, balloons and military vehicles. We want to have thousands of people to cheer the veterans and runners on for the final mile.
Runner registration information is available by clicking here ($100 for half-marathon and $130 for full marathon, but prices go up for last-minute entrants. The deadline for registration will be at the Health and Fitness Expo on Friday, Nov. 9 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.
This is a nationally sanctioned marathon and draws runners from all over the United States and world. Last year there were more than 5,100 runners from 50 states and 14 countries. This year, more than 6,000 runners are expected. Covering 26.2 miles from 7:30 a.m. full-marathon runners start at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, while half-marathon runners will begin at 7:15 a.m. at the Page Youth Center on Hollister Avenue. Both the full and half-marathon will have four T-34s fly over to mark the start of their respective races. Race organizers anticipate at least 300 of the runners to be veterans or active duty personnel.
“There will be a constant flow of runners to cheer on at the Veterans Mile from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” said Rusty Snow, co-director of the race. “First runners will arrive around 8:15 a.m., with the bulk coming in at 8:45 to 9:30, then again from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.”
Joining the marathon for the first time will be the 25-member National Guard Team of Elite Runners, led by Michael Hagen, SFC as the NGB marathon coordinator. They hail from 10 states (PA, WI, MA, IL, WA, OH, UT, MD, ND, and NE). Hagen was based at Port Hueneme in 2001 and is looking forward to coming back to the area.
“We won 25 awards this year at the Kauai Marathon,” he said. “One of our female runners set a new course record last year at the Missoula Marathon, and took third place last year at the San Francisco Marathon.”
Look for the Vintage WWII Army jeep, fondly named “Pierre” from Pierre Claeyssens Veteran’s Museum, as it leads the way for the full marathon driven by co-director & Vietnam Navy pilot, John Blankenship. Click here to see the full and half marathon course.
Following the marathon is a fabulous free concert program at 2 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance St. The concert will give special honor to the 237th anniversary of the U.S. 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 High School 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 9th symphony performing the section called “Going Home” with Nathan Rundlett singing the solo. More generational music identified with the different wars will be included to make it an inclusive and lively one-hour program. The concert is produced by PCVM Board member Marilyn Gilbert.
Special guest and Keynote speaker will be Fer, 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.”
Capt. Carolyn Alexa Wagnild a U.S. 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 in Afghanistan 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 Street, and proceeds south down State Street, turning west on Cabrillo Boulevard, where it finishes at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, 112. W. Cabrillo Blvd. Master Sgt. Jon Parra (U.S. Army, retired) 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,” he said. “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.”
— Maureen McFadden is a publicist representing the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum.