Annual Military Ball Honors the Marine Corps

Retired Commandant of the United States Marine Corps General (Ret.) P.X. Kelly visited Santa Barbara recently to speak at the Military Ball hosted by the Pierre Claeyssens Military Museum and Library and the Santa Barbara Navy League, and held at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. The event honored General Kelly with a VIP reception, where he met approximately 50 VIP guests, spent a few moments discussing current politics and rehashing military memories with veterans.

Following the VIP reception and cocktail hour, guests were led into the main dining hall for the commencement of the program emceed by John Blankenship and a sit-down dinner. There was also the Posting of the Colors, the Pledge of Allegiance led by Auschwitz survivor Norman Jaffee, the National Anthem led by Santa Barbara Police Officer Sgt. David Gonzales and the Invocation by veteran Charles Griffin.

General Kelly is the son of a World War II soldier who was killed in action. He grew up understanding the sacrifices Americans have to make to guarantee our security and freedom, and stated that we are facing the same threats today. As chairman of the World War II National Monument Project, he told guests that he was motivated to travel to Santa Barbara to first honor our nation’s “Greatest Generation” and to honor others who have served and do serve this country in the military. He made a special point of thanking veterans of the Vietnam War and telling them their efforts were not in vain and that they helped stop the march of Communism and contributed to the end of the Cold War. He discussed the difficult decisions that U.S. Presidents have to make when outside forces and events threaten the security of Americans at home and abroad.

General Kelly concluded his speech with, “semper fidelis (“always faithful”) to the God of your choice, semper fidelis to your country, semper fidelis to your family and semper fidelis to yourself.”

Following his speech, General Kelly and Wood-Claeyssens Foundation President Noelle Claeyssens Burkey (daughter of the late Pierre Claeyssens who started the Military Ball approximately five years ago) stepped onto the dance floor for a waltz to the song “Summertime.” Guests immediately joined them. The event concluded on a dancing note, with the swing band playing until close. “The Military Ball is the event I look forward to the most each year, for I am so touched and awed by the selflessness of the men and women who gave up everything to protect and honor their families, country and future generations,” Burkey said. “The Military Ball may not be surrounded by the fancy glitz of many other events but my heart could not be more touched by the stories and presence of our men and women who wore the military uniform to protect the ideals of freedom practiced in our United States of America.”

Guests attending included Burkey’s daughter, Jenna, and son, Brett, Venesa Faciane, Bill Davis, a Navy pilot, Mark and Lynn Schiffmacher, Dr. and Mrs. Roger Dunham, Peter Schenck, Linda Whitley, First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, John and Kandace Ilgen, Josiah “Si” and Karen Jenkins, Dan Burnham, chairman of the Pierre Claeyssens Veteran Museum and Library, and wife, Mary, and John Blankenship, the museum and library president, with wife, Hazel.

The event committee was Melissa Gough, Stephen Miller, Kristine Mollenkopf and husband, Jimmy, Cathy Berry and Karen and Doug Crawford.

The hosting organizations – the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, Northrop Grumman, Hayward Lumber, Community West Bank and Chicago Title – were joined by dozens of sponsors and individual contributors in providing scholarship tickets to every veteran and active duty service person that requested them.