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18th Annual Military Ball Delivers a Formal Salute on Veterans Weekend

Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum's gala a centerpiece of festivities, which include a marathon, parade and concert

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

What: 18th Annual Military Ball

When: Nov. 9, 2013

Where: Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort

The 18th Annual Military Ball was the centerpiece of Veterans Weekend presented in Santa Barbara by the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum. A marathon earlier Saturday preceded the evening dinner and tribute.

At noon Sunday, a Veterans Day parade will roll down State Street, accompanied by a flyover from vintage military aircraft. At 2:30 p.m., a concert at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, 21 E. Constance Ave., will round out the weekend. Veterans Day is Monday.

The Veterans Day Military Ball brought out veterans from all branches and eras of service — many dressed in formal uniforms or in the now vintage uniforms from their era of service.

The Greatest Generation Award was presented to World War II veteran and retired Air Force Col. James Pattillo, a longtime Santa Barbara resident and retired judge. In 1940, at age 20, he dropped out of college in Texas to join the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet. He was the aircraft commander of a B-29 that flew 24 combat missions.

The full program included a VIP cocktail hour, dance lessons and dancing to a full orchestra, the Pledge of Allegiance led by 103-year old Army veteran Bea Cohen, a Missing Man ceremony by Capt. Alexa Wagnild, and a gourmet seated dinner.

A UCSB ROTC graduate, Wagnild is an AH064D Longbow helicopter pilot who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her remarks ended, “The glass is inverted — to symbolize their inability (missing men) to share this evening’s toast. Their chairs are empty — they are missing.”

Recognized was the family of Lt. Cmdr. Landon Jones, a 36-year-old Navy pilot from Lompoc who died Sept. 22 when their MH-60S helicopter crashed into the Red Sea when trying to land on the destroyer USS William P. Lawrence.

The crowd later enjoyed a gourmet seated dinner while video clips were shown of the community of North Platte, Neb., and their extraordinary support of troops and “Sgt. Reckless” — a Korean War hero horse who bravely carried tons of ammunition to the battle field, often under fire, saving many American lives.

Vietnam War veteran Peter Bie facilitated a question-and-answer session with author Karl Marlantes. Marlantes recounted his experience serving as a Marine Corp Reservist at age 19. He landed in Vietnam in October 1968. He described combat experience as well as his own struggles with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“I arrived in Vietnam and was whisked off by helicopter to a remote mountaintop near the border of Laos and the DMZ," he said. "Our job was to break up the enemy supply line. We would go out for 30, 60 or 90 days, or when our uniforms rotted off from us being in the jungle so long. It was incredibly beautiful except for the fact that they were shooting at us.”

Later, Marlantes said, “Decades later I began to fall apart. I would react or get angry at the oddest cues. When I heard a loud noise or someone exhibited road rage, I would wind up pounding on the other driver’s windshield as if he had attacked me. I had never heard of post-traumatic syndrome. I called the VA for help.”

An Oxford University Rhodes Scholar, Marlantes later wrote a bestseller, Matterhorn, and more recently, What It Is Like to Go to War.

The Military Ball was initiated by philanthropist Pierre Claeyssens in 1995 as a way of paying tribute to U.S. armed forces. A Belgian-born immigrant, Claeyssens experienced first-hand the sacrifice of American soldiers liberating his homeland during World War I.

Click here for more information on the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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