MARTINEZ, Calif. – The Veterans Day program to honor and remember those who made our freedoms possible became more than that at Ignacio Plaza, November 11.
The heartfelt voice of each Veteran who spoke revealed a genuine love of country and comrades in arms, yet each entered the United States military service at different times and for different reasons.
It is doubtful they noticed the dramatic effect of a program with the deep resonant voices of Shane Bower and Brian Fraser, the eloquence and attire of Ingmar Olsson, the inspirational story of Shandi Goins, marching music, bugle and bagpipes, colorful flags, and Richard Philbrook’s practical ways to thank our Veterans.
There was warm sunshine and a good turnout including the City Council, Sea Scouts, Boy Scouts, for the 100th anniversary of Veterans (Armistice) Day. Rep. Mike Thomson, Congressman DeSaulnier, and Sen. Bill Dodd also sent representatives with their Veterans Day messages.
Shane Bower, Veterans Commission chair has been out of the Global War on Terrorism for only two years. He described the experience. “Think about voluntarily putting your self in the most uncomfortable situation you can imagine….very austere conditions,” he said, with no mention of danger. “These (Veterans) are some of the most honorable people I have ever known.”
Veterans Commissioner and former long-time Martinez Mayor, Michael Menesini said he was drafted into the military during the Vietnam War. Now graying and bearded, his distinguished appearance shows no sign of those times. “Your life disappears. I was paid $84 a month and they took $6 for taxes. When I got out I had no money, no apartment, no car, and no girlfriend,” he recalled.
Menesini believes in the idea of national service of some kind for everyone just out of high school. He said other countries have it. Reportedly, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Israel, Russia and China are among them.
When the draft ended in 1973, Richard Philbrook was one of the first to volunteer for an all-volunteer force of professional people, “Considered to be the finest military in the world,” he said. Philbrook remembered the many members of his family who served with honor and distinction and appreciates all who served.
“I am proud of my service, but that was not always the case,” he said. When he left the service he was discreet about it because Veterans were not looked upon as favorably as they are now.
According to Philbrook, the best way the thank Veterans for their service is through actions: Donate to Veteran organizations the Disabled American Veterans has a four-star rating and 95 percent of the money goes to the Veterans. Volunteer your time at the Martinez Health Care Clinic or at a Veteran event. Bring in a Veteran speaker. They have insight into leadership, crisis management, and personal grit. Hire a Veteran or military spouse. Purchase from a Veteran-owed business.
Brian Fraser, who spoke on behalf of County Supervisor Federal Glover, reminding us not to let the phrase “thank you for your service” lose its meaning. “Just as familiarity breeds contempt, frequency breeds triviality,” he commented.
“The best way to show them we value their lives is to insist that we do not send them into harm’s way without a good reason,” Fraser declared. “The other way is to be sure Veterans and their families are not subject to privation.”
Fraser’s son, who is a Marine stationed in the Pacific. Fraser said the young sergeant went to the gym 18 days, out of a 21-day visit home. When questioned about it, Fraser said the young Marine replied, ‘This body belongs to the United States of America. I have to take care of it.’” That shows the value of commitment, according to Fraser.
Shaundi Goins told how U. S. Navy training gave him the discipline and tools to succeed in education and business, after conquering his alcohol addiction. “The Navy gave me the foundation to be everything I was meant to be,” Goins remarked.
His was the motivational saga of the transformation from a hapless, homeless 23-year old Fremont addict, to earning a Masters Degree, becoming a college recruiter/administrator, and finally founding his own firm.
World War I ended with the signing of an armistice between the Allies (including the United States) and Germany at Compiègne, France on Nov. 11, 1918. The peace agreement took effect at 11:00 a.m. that day. The first commemoration of that signing was on Armistice Day in 1919. In 1938, congress made Nov. 11 a National Holiday. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day, which differs from Memorial Day, May 30, when those who died in service to their country are honored.