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Pierre Claeyssens Museum Plans Weekend of Events to Honor All Veterans

Marking the 94th observance of Veterans Day, the weekend of Nov. 9-10 in Santa Barbara will have four unforgettable events presented by the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum & Library Foundation for everyone to attend and honor all veterans.

In addition to the three free community events — marathon, concert and parade — the 18th annual Military Ball will take place the evening of Nov. 9 at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort and is open to the public for the price of a ticket (RSVP deadline is Nov. 1).

This year’s keynote speaker is Karl Marlantes, who will be interviewed on stage by Peter Bie, president of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America (No. 218). Both men served two tours in that war.

The high-profile event, which usually draws more than 500, will salute Col. James Pattillo, presenting him with PCVM’s Greatest Generation Award.

At noon Sunday, Nov. 10, Marlantes and Pattillo will be joined by numerous local veterans organizations, active duty military as well as ROTC and Sea Cadets among many others in vintage military vehicles from various conflicts for the annual Veterans Day Parade down State Street. Don’t miss the 18 vintage aircraft doing multiple flyovers in different formations best seen from Cabrillo Boulevard yet visible from all over town at end of parade. Just look up when you hear the distinctive roar of the engines.

The annual free concert at 2:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance St., will wrap up the PCVM activities with a flourish.

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 guided by the leadership of co-founders Lt. John Blankenship (U.S. Navy) and his wife, Hazel Blankenship, and the Board of Directors.

“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.

If you’re a runner, get a good running start on the weekend with the Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon (now in its fifth year). Officials have dedicated the last mile of the sanctioned 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.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged to line 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, which will be festooned with flags, banners, balloons and military vehicles. We want to have as many people to come out and cheer the veterans and runners on for the final and hardest mile.

Runners registration information is available online by clicking here. The deadline for registration will be at the Health and Fitness Expo on Friday, Nov. 8 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Drawing runners from all over the United States and the world, the full race will start at 7:30 a.m. 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 and again will do a flyover at the Veteran’s Mile around 9:45 a.m. near the stadium in two passes — the final one a salute to veterans who lost their lives in conflict called “The Missing Man” formation. Race organizers anticipate at least 300 of the runners to be veterans or active duty personnel.

Returning to the marathon 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 (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, Ohio, Utah, Maryland, North Dakota and New England). Hagen was based at Port Hueneme in 2001 and is looking forward to coming back to the area. Select Staffing is the major sponsor of the race. Click here for info on road closures along the course.

Stars and bars come out in force on Saturday evening for the 18th Annual Military Ball that begins at 5 p.m. at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort, where you can mix and mingle, enjoy a steak and shrimp dinner, and then dance those calories off to the Swing Shift Band under the direction of Bob Hensen. Local favorite Anna Abbey is the pianist for the cocktail hour, and there will be swing dance instruction at the beginning of the evening as well.

At a jaunty 103 years old, Army veteran Pvt. First Class Bea Abrams Cohen, who attended last year’s ball and was a huge hit with everyone she talked with, returns to the Military Ball to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. She is the oldest living female World War II veteran in California and possibly the nation. Cohen is one of the few people alive today who witnessed the beginning of World War I in 1914, when, at age 4, she and her brother, sister and mother watched while low-flying airplanes dropped bombs on the factories next to her backyard in Buhush, Romania.

Special guest and keynote speaker is Karl Marlantes, a highly decorated veteran who will discuss his experience in Vietnam that left him with PTSD symptoms decades after the war ended and how he has moved through this devastating reality.

This year, Peter Bie will interview Marlantes to bring a new dynamic to the event. Marlantes was a Marine officer from 1968 to 1972 and served in Vietnam from October 1968 to October 1969, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts and 10 air medals. He graduated from Yale University in 1967 and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. After leaving Vietnam, Marlantes returned to Oxford, where he continued his graduate education, earning a master;s degree in philosophy, politics and education. He worked as a business consultant for various international energy companies.

Local resident and honored veteran from World War II, Col. James Pattillo will receive the Greatest Generation Award 2013 from the PCVM. Pattillo entered the service as a cadet in the Army Air Corps in 1940 and retired a Colonel. He flew 16 combat missions during WWII as commander of a B-29 with 11 crew members.

Representing the new generation of warriors is Capt. Carolyn Alexa Wagnild, a U.S. Army Apache helicopter pilot who was the Squadron XO of Delta Company and graduated in 2006 from UCSB ROTC Surfrider Battalion with a degree in global studies. Capt. Wagnild returns to perform the Missing Man Formation Service at the ball to honor Navy pilot Landon Jones, from Lompoc, who was recently killed in a helicopter crash while attempting to land on the deck of the USS William P. Lawrence in the Red Sea.

Hazel Blankenship, co-founder of PCVM announced, “The entire Jones family is coming to the Annual Ball and Landon’s photo will be up behind Alexa when she does the Missing Man Ceremony. They are thrilled and so are we! Another of our 'local' heroes and they all deserve the honoring of their son and brother.”

Reservations are required to the Military Ball no later than Nov. 1 to [email protected] or 805.966.1660.

The Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum has assembled an impressive set of ground and air troops for a most memorable weekend. Everyone will be “looking up” for this year’s Veterans Day Parade, beginning at noon with several helicopters to open it and at the close with an astonishing array of 18 vintage and modern aircraft in multiple flyover formations. Some of the aircraft include helicopters, P-51s, a B-25, a C-47, four or more US T-34s and several Yaks 9s, aka Nanchangs.

The WWII Army jeep, fondly named "Pierre" from Pierre Claeyssens Veteran’s Museum & Library Foundation, leads the parade driven by co-founder of PCVM and a Vietnam Navy pilot, Blankenship accompanied by Marlantes (featured keynote speaker at the ball). Present and accounted for on State Street, the Veterans Day Parade will have nearly 200 participants and includes members from all of the armed forces — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, UCSB’s ROTC Surfrider Battalion, and the Merchant Marines.

The Veterans Day Parade starts at the 1400 block of State Street (at Sola St.) and will head south down State Street, turning west on Cabrillo Boulevard, where it finishes at the Veterans Memorial Building, 112. W. Cabrillo Blvd. The parade will have 15 to 20 military vehicles from many different eras to anchor the parade. Many of the vehicles will be parked along Cabrillo Boulevard for an hour or two after the parade. This annual Veterans Day 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.

Concluding the festivities on a high note the free concert at 2:30 p.m. in First Presbyterian Church, corner of State and Constance streets, will give special honors to Korean War veterans as this year marks the 60th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War. Produced by PCVM board member Marilyn Gilbert, the guests on the program include: Brigadier General Fred Lopez (USMC) as featured speaker, his grandson Ryan Marsh will lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and John Blankenship will open and close the program complete with a color guard.

The Westmont College Orchestra conducted by Dr. Michael Shasberger joined by the Santa Barbara Choral Society, under the direction of Joanne Wasserman with soloists soprano Celeste Tavera and baritone Emil Cristescu complete the program.

Monday, Nov. 11 is when the national holiday is observed. Remember to thank the veterans and active duty military you see this weekend for their service.

For more information about the Veterans Day weekend events, presented by the PCVM, click here or call 805.966.1660.

— Maureen McFadden is a publicist representing the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum & Library Foundation.


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