Feb 16, 2016 at 07:40 AM

PCVF in 2016 – Looking back on history, looking forward to growth

By Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation

by John Blankenship

Honoring, commemorating and celebrating service to our country is at the heart of what the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation (PCVF) stands for. Our namesake, Pierre Claeyssens (1908 – 2003), was deeply committed to these ideals because of his most challenging and dramatic experiences growing up in Antwerp, Belgium during the German occupation of WWI. Those four years (1914 – 1918) changed the world forever and indelibly affect those involved to the end of their lives. Pierre’s life, family and entire generation were pushed to the extremes of hunger, oppression and despair. Thousands of people starved to death and their entire population was stressed to the limits of human endurance.

In 1918, the war was over but not the suffering. It was only when the American Doughboys came to liberate, feed and clothe their bedraggled population that hope finally did prevail. Pierre was imbued with a deep sense of love, respect and admiration for our citizen soldiers who had fought for their liberation. He was 10 years old when an American soldier handed him a sandwich as he stood watching the troops march by. He never forgot that gesture or that sandwich.

Pierre's love for American veterans was shown in his dedication to being involved with all of the veterans organizations – American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW) and others. And when he was finally financially able, he gave generously to help both active duty and veterans in need. One of his most noteworthy and profound gestures was to plan, organize and personally fund the first Military Ball in 1996. After his passing in 2003, the Foundation, in his name, took up the reigns and 2016 will see the celebration of the 20th Annual Military Ball on Saturday, November 12.

The PCVF Board is committed to carrying on this great tradition and has expanded Pierre’s most heartfelt wishes to higher levels. Besides Veterans Day, the Military Ball and the Annual Parade and Concert, there are important events like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. These events and programs have become mainstays for all citizens of Santa Barbara and the surrounding communities.

PCVF has expanded Pierre’s dreams to include a successful program to helping returning veterans who are attending UCSB through the Veterans Resource Team. These men and women, who are primarily Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, are struggling financially as well as with integrating back into school and society. With help from the PCVF over the last eight years, ROTC at UCSB has been built into one of the finest units in the country. The Board is also proud of the contributions and support for the family readiness units at Point Mugu, Port Hueneme and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Expanding our outreach to even another dimension, PCVF has collaborated with the Channel City Club to put on programs honoring WWII Fighter Pilots, WWII Bomber Boys, The Boys Who Stormed Normandy, The Marines of Iwo Jima, and the “Vietnam War – 50 Years On” were all salutes to veterans and especially to our local heroes. Coming up will be “The Forgotten War – Korea 66 Years On” on Monday, May 9 at the Fess Parker, which will feature four local combat veterans from that war.

As former State First Lady Gayle Wilson said, “because of PCVF, Santa Barbara does more than any city Pete and I have ever seen to honor veterans.”

Pierre’s famous quote: “To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen ... to be forgotten is the worst,” led us to adopt the motto “Never forgotten” which guides us in everything we do.

Posted in News.

Feb 16, 2016 Arrow1 Down Reply
Gary Simpson

Great inaugural letter!!!!!

Feb 18, 2016 Arrow1 Down Reply
Jane Habermann

It was nice to read the true story of Pierre and to know how you have been true to his vision of supporting veterans.