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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 5:57 am | Fair 46º


Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation to Salute Veterans with Weekend Events

The Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation presents four unforgettable events on Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 8-9.

We hope you can join us for all or some of the public events, whether you live here or are visiting.

Stop by the PCVF Booth at the Earl Warren Showgrounds on Friday when you register or at the end of the marathons to say hello. We’ll have veterans shirts from years past for sale. The All Carb Dinner held from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday will serve up spaghetti and the fixings and is underwritten by the foundation and free to all veteran runners. Marathoners who are not part of the Armed Forces past or present, can also take advantage of the dinner for $15 at the door in Earl Warren Hall.

You who are running in the marathons take notice of the opening ceremonies, with bugler, bagpiper, flyovers and vintage WWII vehicles that lead the way. All those elements are sponsored by PCVF, as well as the final mile, dubbed “The Veteran's Mile." You’ll see runners with blue shirts and a USA flag on their bibs identifying them as a veteran or in active duty now. Please be sure to acknowledge them and say, “Thank you for your service!”

At the start of the final mile, near Shoreline and La Marina Drive, small American flags will be handed out to all the runners for everyone to take the colors on that final mile run and fly them high to salute our veterans and their families. Around 9:30 a.m., look up for a two-pass flyover with four or five planes near Leadbetter Beach. The second pass will be “The Missing Man.”

On Saturday evening, the centerpiece of the weekend, the 19th annual Military Ball will take place starting at 5 p.m. at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort. The ball is open to the public. If you are interested in getting an invite to next year’s Military Ball, send your email along with your mailing address to [email protected] and put “Add me to the Military Ball Invite List” in the subject box.

With more stars, bars and medals than you’re likely to see in a lifetime, this high-profile event usually draws more than 500. The evening consists of a cocktail hour, a three-course dinner, a keepsake photo, the Greatest Generation Award to Sam Cathcart (longtime Santa Barbara High School football coach and a 49er as well), special guest actress/author Fannie Flagg, keynote speaker Gen. William Begert, live music, dancing and a chance to mix and mingle with the military population in a social setting. Event ends at 10 p.m. It’s an experience you won’t forget.

On Sunday at high noon, the Veterans Parade commences in the 1400 block of State Street and rolls down to Cabrillo Boulevard to head west and finish at 112 W. Cabrillo St., the Veterans Memorial Building. It's less than an hour long but boasts nearly 200 participants comprising of numerous local veterans organizations, active duty military from Vandenberg and Ventura Naval Base, as well as UCSB Surfrider Battalion ROTC and Sea Cadets among many others in vintage military vehicles from various conflicts all converging for the annual Veterans Parade down State Street.

Highest highlight of the weekend: the flyovers! You can't miss the 24 vintage aircraft doing multiple flyovers in different formations best seen from Cabrillo Boulevard at the parade’s end. Just look up when you hear the distinctive roar of the engines. It became the talk of the town. Vehicles are parked for an hour or more after the parade for some photos.

Later in the afternoon, PCVF presents its annual free concert at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance St., to wrap up the Veterans Day weekend on a high note. The theme of this year’s concert is “Honoring the Women in the Military.” It's a capital "P" Patriotic program. There will be a live orchestra from Westmont College, the Santa Barbara Choral Society, soloists, an emcee, guest speakers and more. It's a beautiful way to commemorate all our veterans and give thanks.

Namesake of the nonprofit, Pierre Claeyssens, was a philanthropist born in Belgium and lived through the first World War. He always remembered the U.S. troops liberating his hometown and the food rations they passed out to his very hungry village. Pierre passed away here in Santa Barbara in 2003 and designated money be devoted to our local veterans and to continue to have the Military Ball, which he started in 1995.

His statement, “To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen … to be forgotten is the worst,” is what drives the foundation’s Board of Directors. This legacy has grown to include many more programs for veterans and their families under the leadership of co-founders Lt. John Blankenship (USN) and his wife, Hazel Blankenship, along with the board.

“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.

We welcome your donations and invite you to log onto the website to read more about the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation. Like our Facebook page so you can stay in touch with the organization that has been supporting and advocating for veterans, their families and students since 2004. You can take a look at the gallery online at our website for a sample of the extensive collection.

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

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