Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?
By John W. Blankenship, Former LT. U.S. Navy and Co-Founding Director of Pierre Claeyssens Veteran's Foundation
A recent incident in Los Angeles caught my attention and has really troubled me. A high school teacher was fired for his reaction and rant to a student wearing a shirt that had the word Marines on it. His diatribe on the status of anyone in the military as being the “lowest of the low”. “only the dumb and stupid people are members of the military. They are not high-level thinkers, they are not academic people” to quote his exact words.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated rant that was solely his alone. I’ve experienced that undertone for quite some time as many of the ROTC units are shut down in California’s public schools. S.B. High School closed the program down a number of years ago. Many of the veterans who used to speak in public schools have been told not to show up anymore. Military recruiters are no longer allowed on school campuses. These anti-military undertones are alarming and troubling for the future of the U.S. One has to question whether our future defenders will come from only the Red States like Kentucky, Tennessee and other more conservative parts of America.
I grew up in San Diego where everyone was related or part of the bases that exist there. Later, I was in my junior year at UCSB in 1963 when I received my draft notice. It said: “upon graduation, you will report”.
I had been in mandatory ROTC in 60-61 and had filled that requirement. I did not enjoy the marching and drill, and resented the intrusion into my valuable surfing time. But all of us were there together and understood something of the importance of the training. By 1965 I graduated and joined up for naval flight school in Pensacola, Fl. Spending the next 5 years training and flying for the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. Those 5 years were to shape and impact my life far beyond what I had expected. The men I served with were a great cross section of America. There were so many fine intelligent and more talented, dedicated, and brighter men than myself.
That experience was to lead me, many years later after family and career, to being a part of our local veterans community. The ensuing interaction with veterans of all services and conflicts since WWII has been enjoyable and enlightening. Military service is not for everyone but those who do serve should be respected and not shunned. The fabric of our society includes academics, clerics, artists and many other categories, even warriors. The combination is what America is all about and has made this nation like no other. Our history is unmatched from its birth to the present day. During all these years our country has been blessed with leaders who were from every walk of life. George Washington was our first incredible president and he was a general who had been a warrior nearly his entire life- other Veterans who occupied this great office were: Jackson, Taylor, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and finally H.W. Bush were of the same mold.
All of the above leads me to May 28th, Memorial Day, and the ceremonies that honor our fallen. This one day of remembrance is like no other and hopefully, people will take time to attend. It’s free and lasts only an hour. The Santa Barbara Cemetery is a breathtaking setting and combined with the Santa Barbara Choral Societies’ 60+ singers, the vintage military vehicles, the many uniforms and flags make the event truly beautiful and memorable. The pomp and circumstance with bagpipes, bugles, and resplendent Color Guard create an atmosphere rich in patriotism, honor and remembrance.
We need to remind ourselves of our history, heritage and price that hundreds of thousands of men and women have paid for our freedom.
In conclusion, we must remember Calvin Coolidge's famous quote “A nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” May 28th monday 10:00 am at Santa Barbara Cemetery, 10:00 at the cemetery in Carpinteria and 9:00 am in Goleta.
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