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Santa Barbara Salutes Past and Present Service with Memorial Day Ceremony

Hundreds gather at the Santa Barbara Cemetery to pay their respects at the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation Memorial Day ceremony

The posting and retiring of the colors at Monday’s Santa Barbara Cemetery ceremony was done by servicemen from Naval Base Ventura County.
The posting and retiring of the colors at Monday’s Santa Barbara Cemetery ceremony was done by servicemen from Naval Base Ventura County.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

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Santa Barbarans honored veterans and paid their respects to the servicemen and women claimed by war at the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation Memorial Day ceremony, held at the Santa Barbara Cemetery Monday morning.

Several hundred people, including Congresswoman Lois Capps and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, gathered for the program, which included patriotic songs, a salute to veterans in each branch of the military, and a wreath presentation.

“Today we remember our nation’s heritage and heroes whose lives we traded for a continued freedom,” said keynote speaker Lt. Col. Ryan Novotny, the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“We remember that our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who share in the sacrifice of a loved one lost.”

The ceremony was put on by the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, a local organization founded in 2003 and named after the Belgian-born Claeyssens, who emigrated to the U.S. after witnessed the German occupation of his country during World War I and became active in the World War II effort.

“I’m honored and humbled to serve with 1.3 million men and women who do amazing things throughout the world each and every day,” Novotny said. “They build schools, they deliver humanitarian aid, respond to disasters, protect our citizens and our nation’s interests, and when necessary, take up arms in her defense.”

The Santa Barbara Choral Society performed renditions of songs honoring the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, which were represented at the ceremony by veterans who served from World War II up through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Buglers play during the Santa Barbara Cemetery Memorial Day ceremony. Click to view larger
Buglers play during the Santa Barbara Cemetery Memorial Day ceremony.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Passing twice over the ceremony was a formation of vintage warbird planes, with the second pass flown in the missing man formation.

Former Lt. John Blankenship of the Navy, who founded the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, gave a special shout-out to Art Petersen of Goleta, the last living member of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s Fox Company, which stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

For the many veterans and their families in attendance, the ceremony was much more than an abstract commemoration.

“I’ve come to pay respect to the fallen and the memory of my father, who was a World War II vet in Sicily and Italy, and just be with all my brothers here,” said Bob Gonzalez, who served as a military policeman in the Army in Korea and Germany from 1964 to 1967.

Other Memorial Day events were held throughout the South Coast, including a ceremony at the Goleta Cemetery Monday morning. 

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Lt. Col. Ryan Novotny is the commander of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base and was the keynote speaker at Monday’s event at the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Click to view larger
Lt. Col. Ryan Novotny is the commander of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base and was the keynote speaker at Monday’s event at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)
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