The Pasadena City College Pep Band played anthems honoring each branch of armed service as the veterans stood attention in a Veteran’s Day event at Centennial Square at Pasadena City Hall on Wednesday.
The master of ceremonies was former mayor and current PCC trustee, Bill Thomson, a veteran himself. Thomson was a member of the Army Corps of Engineers Third Infantry in Germany during the Cold War.
“It’s a special day,” said Thomson. “My military service was a key part of my life and will be forever.”
Congresswoman Judy Chu spoke at the ceremony and touched on many aspects of veteran services and mismanagement in the Department of Veterans Affairs. She also honored her father, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy in Okinawa who passed away at the age of 91.
Chu acknowledged the PCC board members for their work with the VA to get a get a veteran’s health care center on the PCC campus. Chu has been working with both the VA and PCC as there are no clinics in the San Gabriel Valley for veterans. Chu is hopeful the clinic will be on campus in two years.
Chu thanked PCC for stepping forward for VA care by offering their location and thanked the American Legion Post 13 of Pasadena for donating the first $10,000 toward the $300,000 needed to open the clinic.
“There is still more work to do and challenges to overcome,” said Chu in her speech.
Chu talked of the bill she is working on to allow veterans to see private doctors and to strengthen the G.I. bill.
Korean War veteran Emmell Beech received his high school diploma and associates degree from PCC with the G.I. bill. Beech served in the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
Beech dropped out of high school to serve his country but later went on to Cal State for his bachelor’s and USC for his master’s. He spent 37 years in the educational field in Pasadena and Altadena as well as superintendent of schools in Inglewood.
“We don’t do enough for our homeless vet,” said Beech. Beech helps out with donations and “really supports” PCC building a VA medical clinic on campus. “It would be great,” said Beech.
At 11:11 a.m. there was a military flyover with historic military aircraft as the PCC Pep Band played. It was an exciting moment that preceded an eloquent speech and moving stories from keynote speaker Lt. Col. Garth Massey of the U.S.M.C.
Massey informed the guests that 80 percent of military service is humanitarian.
He spoke of his service in in an African village where they took a human approach rather than ignore the dissension they felt from the community. A local soccer field had been destroyed and the marines knew the children needed a place. The marines filled the buses with volunteers and they cleaned and smoothed the soccer field. They had soccer balls sent to them in care packages. The marines began playing and left the soccer balls behind to encourage the kids to come and play.
“Veterans, you serve others more than you serve yourself,” said Garth.
Garth spoke about the resilience veterans have and told another story of his friend and marine Jason who shot and bleeding from every organ hit. He dragged himself to a ditch where he called for his own medical evacuation. Jason was told he’d never walk but is now a policeman.
Vietnam veteran Peter W. DeBeers, a combat field medic in the Navy Fleet Marine Force, echoed this sentiment.
“I would go around finding the pieces and try to put people back together again. I found everyone, dead or alive,” said DeBeers with tear-rimmed eyes as he recalled his time in Vietnam.
Service takes a toll on families, too. It wasn’t easy for DeBeers’ wife when he came home. DeBeers has been married for 42 years to his wife, Georgia.
DeBeers is a 70 year Pasadena resident and went to PCC. He’s happy that PCC is putting a medical clinic on their campus for veterans. It’s a far cry from when DeBeers served in Vietnam when people were not always so kind to veterans.
“It makes me feel good, makes me feel appreciated,” he said. DeBeers said it took a year for him to be “put back together.” He received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his service.
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