Military Ball

By Lynda Millner   |   November 23, 2017
Military Ball co-chairs lieutenant John Blankenship (retired) and wife Hazel

To be killed in war is not the worst. To be lost in war is not the worst. To be forgotten is the worst.” – Pierre Claeyssens

Bagpiper Bill Boetticher greeting guests at the Military Ball

The 21st annual Military Ball was held for more than 700 people – veterans, active-duty service members, their families, and friends at The Fess Parker, the biggest ever. As the program stated, “Philanthropist Pierre Claeyssens initiated the Military Ball as a way of paying tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces-past and present- in the Santa Barbara region.” He was a Belgian-born immigrant and always remembered the American soldiers liberating his homeland during WWI. He passed away in 2003, but the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation  (PCVF) carries on the event under the leadership of lieutenant John Blankenship, USN (retired) and his wife, Hazel Blankenship, along with a military related board of 16 plus an advisory board.

Greeting us outside were American flags, a helicopter, and a bag piper Bill Boetticher in a kilt. It’s always fun to check out all the guys and gals in full uniform regalia loaded with medals. Represented were all six branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. After a reception, we went into the ballroom for a three-course dinner.

It’s always thrilling to me to see the posting of the colors, saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” and the singing of the national anthem by David Gonzales. The Missing Man Ceremony given by Dominique Chan, Senior Cadet with Santa Barbara’s ROTC Surfrider; Battalion followed. A table was set with symbols, such as a white tablecloth to symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty or a pinch of salt to symbolize the tears endured by those missing and their families. It ended by the raising of glasses in a toast to honor America’s POW/MIAs.

Military Ball speaker Jack Jacobs, retired colonel of the U.S. Army with Ed Dewey, retired Army colonel
Pierre Claeyssens board member Gary Simpson, Jill Nida, and Pete Ogburn World War II combat engineer who was at Omaha Beach

Executive director of the PCVF John Blankenship presented the Generations of Service Award to the Di Loreto Family: Venanzio (dad), Silvio, Aldo, and Lucio. Receiving the award for the family was LucioJohn ” who entered the Navy in 1954, earned his wings of gold and served two tours in Vietnam. The rest of the family served in other branches of the service.

Medal of Honor winner Jack Jacobs, Army colonel (retired) was the keynote speaker. He was cautioned not to join the Army because he was too small. He joked, “ If I’d been two inches taller, I’d be dead.” He also spoke earlier in the day at the Elks Club in Goleta.  His regular job is as a military news analyst for NBC and MSNBC, so he’s usually talking to a camera or an anchor, neither of which he credits with any brains.

In a Q&A at the club, he said, “Bowe Bergdahl should spend his life in jail.” When asked about transgender people in the military, he replied, “All I care about is how fast a person can reload a gun.” Jacobs also believes we should have mandatory military service, if only for a short time. That way future generations would all have shared an experience that might end our fragmented society. The Art Deco Band took over and more dancing began.

And so once again, all veterans were honored and “not forgotten.”


You might also be interested in...

  • Woman holding phone

    Support the
    Santa Barbara non-profit transforming global healthcare through telehealth technology