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Santa Barbara Community Pays Tribute to Veterans, Past and Present

Local dignitaries and others gather at a Memorial Day event honoring America's service members

Military veterans, dignitaries and other members of the community gathered at the Santa Barbara Veterans Memorial Building on Monday morning to remember service members who have fallen in the line of duty throughout America’s 234-year history.

Uniforms of all vintages could be seen in the audience — from World War II-era khakis to a Civil War uniform worn by a Marine Corps veteran representing the local chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Colors were presented by the Santa Barbara Sea Cadets.

“The characteristic that wins a war is the same characteristic that makes a society work, and that’s self-sacrifice,” said Santa Barbara City Councilman Das Williams, whose grandfather was a POW in Japan from 1942-45.

He said that although his grandfather had to sit out the majority of World War II, the greatest lesson he passed on to his family was that little bits of self-sacrifice and dedication to something larger than oneself is what ties together the fabric of U.S. society.

Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, a veteran, said he recently visited his brother’s family, in which — consistent with the experience of many active duty service members now — four out of five children have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Memorial Day, initiated in 1868 by then-President Ulysses S. Grant, was originally intended to honor those from past wars who gave their lives in defense of America and its ideals. But, said Lt. Col Quincy Handy — commander of the U.S. Army 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, which was headquartered in Santa Barbara from 1949 until last year — many American service members are making huge sacrifices right now. The 425th returned from a yearlong deployment in Iraq last August, and is likely to deploy to Afghanistan sometime next year.

Taps is played at Monday's Memorial Day service
Taps is played at Monday’s Memorial Day service. (Ben Preston / Noozhawk photo)

“The courage of the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan knows no bounds. They have taught us what it means to be citizens in this best and greatest society,” Handy said, calling for continued vigilance in those troubled areas of the world. “Without a U.S. military, the world would be a far more oppressive and dark place.”

Members of various organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, the Vietnam Veterans Association and Veterans for Peace, accepted wreaths honoring their organizations and the military casualties they represent.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, spoke at the event and stressed the need to tend to those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This is about a loving obligation to a community that deserves the very best quality of care,” Capps said, adding that she and her colleagues are working on legislation that would restore the G.I. Bill to its post-World War II glory, guaranteeing full college tuition benefits to military veterans and the families of those killed in action. “We must continue to repay our debt to you with proper interest.”

The commander of the Santa Barbara chapter of Disabled American Veterans encouraged all veterans experiencing difficulty in receiving post-separation medical benefits to contact his office immediately for assistance filing a claim with the federal government.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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