Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

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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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FondofSB May 24, 2018 02:30 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

Thank you for your service to the nation and hence to us.
It is to people like you that the rest of us owe the liberty and freedom we enjoy.
Unfortunately being in the military and the services is no longer politically correct, and even more so in California !
So those who have never contributed anything to the safety and standing of the country revel in their contempt for those values.
These attitudes are despicable .
By all means , J.W.B. : be proud of yourself you certainly deserve to be and you have our eternal thanks !

Fitness1 May 24, 2018 03:47 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

Thank you, sir, for your service.
I am the VERY proud daughter, niece, cousin and sister-in-law of several veterans. My uncle served during Korea. My father served in the Navy during the period between Korea and Vietnam. My cousin served in Vietnam and was on the USS Forrestal when it caught fire. We had to wait many long and dark days until we learned he was safe. One brother-in-law who was in the Air Force is buried in Arlington Nat'l Cemetery. Another brother-in-law served in the Army and my sister's godson served in Iraq and was KIA.
My father joined the Navy after he had already attained his Master's degree and is one of the smartest people I know! Most young people today have no idea of the discipline and intelligence required to serve.
I think we should do what Israel and Switzerland do and require mandatory military service for all able-bodied citizens.
I am very very grateful for the men and women of our armed forces, and agree that they do not receive the respect they should. Thank you.

a-1527205087 May 24, 2018 04:38 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

Some people think that events honoring veterans tend to glorify war. Indeed, some do. But we can honor veterans, especially those who have suffered or died, without giving blanket approval of War.

a-1527211783 May 24, 2018 06:29 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

1045: Thank you for your very measured comment. I agree that many of the ceremonies, both for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, have slowly evolved into events that are politically biased, border-line war mongering. My youngest son attended many veteran's events with his Vietnam War Purple Heart father. Then my son ends up in Iraq. What he saw there, mostly waste and corruption, taught him he will not take his own children to these ceremonies. We can all quietly honor the war dead. We could respectfully honor the war dead by stopping in a church where we could quietly reflect on the cost of war. We do not need to wish anyone Happy Memorial Day. Our family will find a quiet moment to think about soldiers who have died in past wars.

a-1527230384 May 24, 2018 11:39 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

I can only echo that has been said before. My step father was in the Navy for Vietnam, and my great uncle served during WWII in the tank battalion that liberated Dachau... He suffered a break down, but then was sent to Africa. He was never the same.

I think, today, there is a conflict - between honoring those who have given their lives and/or sanity, and feeling like one is condoning sending our sons and daughters to kill the sons and daughters of another people.

We are battle weary. We are war weary. And we are loathe to send our children out to fight more 'wars' we don't understand. Our children are dying in countries we're not at war with.... In Lybia, Syria, Yemen... they are dying. Why?

We are faced with the stark reality that the returning veterans are ending up on the streets. The waiting times, and services available to them are below acceptable. Should we wave our flags and encourage more of our disadvantaged youth to join, so they can also become part of our homeless population?

I honor those that have given their lives, but I encourage no one to follow suit.

a-1527726575 May 30, 2018 05:29 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

This article written by John Blankenship, on May 24, has a glaring ERROR. He said military recruiters are not allowed on high school campuses. (I wish!) He could have called any high school to find out that each branch of the military recruiters get two
visits on-campus, plus can be present at Career Fairs. We all know recruiters are paid to SELL the idea that joining up right after high school is a fine idea. They are told of cash bonuses, medical coverage, travel, excitement, and learning how to fire lethal weapons at "The Enemy". (whoever they are told is the enemy at the moment) What may NOT be told to our sons and daughters is that they LOSE all freedoms that teens enjoy in SB. Enlistees are told WHEN to eat, sleep, wake, work, march, as they are yelled at and punished for non-compliance. Quitting the military lands them in a JAIL cell. Kids need to know this! A decision to go to SBCC on their offer of FREE tuition & books is a MUCH wiser choice! Signing up for a career involving possibly killing strangers should NOT be encouraged at all by our high schools! (Teachers & taxpayers work hard to get our young people to be educated adults and we should not risk teens' exposure to recruiters on our campuses!) Military is supposed to "defend our United States". Historically, the U.S. military overpowered the countless Indian populations on the land on which we now reside. We grew up being taught that "our" land belongs to us, and our military exists to keep us safe. What do you think? Will you send your son or daughter?

SB_93117 May 25, 2018 07:45 AM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

Maybe it's just me, but I am so grateful for the service, sacrifice and dedication of anyone willing to fight on my behalf for my freedom...but at the same time, do not want my own kids to join any military branch. I'm afraid they will come back too different....mentally, emotionally, and physically harmed. A whole new person with the child I reared, loved, supported, encouraged, and taught, never to return again. I have two sons. One is already registered and will be heading for training later this year and another in high school who says he's going to join. My WORST fears are coming true. I am terrified. I LOVE our country (at least the part that doesn't make everything a political tirade full of lies and fake news). I support and hold the highest esteem for anyone willingly serving to sustain the freedom of people they'll never know. But I just don't want my kids doing it. Maybe that's one of the many reasons I hold such high esteem for those who go. Thank you for your moving post. THANK YOU for your service, sacrifices, and everything you did to make it possible for me to even write this comment freely, with no fear of imprisonment because I'm speaking my mind. God bless you <3

RHS May 25, 2018 08:44 AM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

Memorial Day was created so that we would remember "never again". Not so we could encourage young people with visions of "heroic sacrifice" in the name of "their country." War is the worst of human conditions. After each war the people have promised that we have learned our lesson and we should "Memorialize" it. But as time passes we succumb to the nonsense of flag waving and pretense that we are always in the right and our enemies were always in the wrong. A lot of this stuff began with the propaganda justifying WWI and the beginning of the cult of the flag. Humanity must move away from this tribalism. People who have been brain-washed into "my country right or wrong" ideas have to expand their vision. I use Memorial Day to mourn for the deaths that were so often unnecessary and for pain they brought to so many parents, wives, husbands and children.

Red Creek May 25, 2018 09:09 AM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

My father was very disabled after 3 fiery plane crashes but his love of country and respect for those he served with greatly influenced my life. Our generation has experienced several unpopular wars after the world wars, and it has often tainted our perception of those that serve. Military men and women respond to the political leaders and do not foment the wars in which they die and suffer. Honoring their dedication and sacrifice is the least we can do.

sempdogED May 25, 2018 10:21 AM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

In your editorial praising presidential vets, you should have included JFK and Carter. They were both honorable and Kennedy was especially heroic.

a-1527277912 May 25, 2018 12:51 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

According to USMC Major General Smedley Butler, "War Is a Racket".


Channelfog May 26, 2018 06:12 PM
Where Did the Honor Go for Veterans?

A rarely spoken of aspect of sacrifice and emotional endurance of our service personnel is their eventual realization of lethal complicity in events that served not our Freedom nor that of any other Human Beings involved in the conflict. Veterans returning from the unjust war in Vietnam were called "Baby Killers" though they had rendered absolutely everything they had to give for their Country in good faith. Unfortunately that model has become the rule form Korea to Iraq and beyond. Real support of our valiant Veterans is far more complicated than mere "feel good" flag waving, "Thanks". It entails honoring their honest, dedicated, intent, in spite of misguided National Policy. It also entails a Citizenry committed to preventing involvement of future service personnel in such unwarranted conflicts and the inherent, unnecessary injuries inflicted upon all parties involved. Thank you Veterans.

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