Over 700 attend annual Military Ball in Santa Barbara

Veterans and active duty personnel enjoy evening

Colonel Jack Jacobs was the keynote speaker at the annual Military Ball in Santa Barbara Saturday night. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The 21st annual Military Ball in Santa Barbara, honored those who have served our country, or who are currently enlisted, and it drew a crowd of over 700 to the Fess Parker Doubletree resort Saturday night. 

It was hosted by the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation.

Many of the attendees were in their military uniforms. The ballroom was decorated with flags from each branch of the military.

The dinner included filet mignon and shrimp and a dessert that had a patriotic flair with Americana cheesecake, blueberries, raspberries and whipped cream.   The Fess Parker resort's Executive Chef Kirk DeLong is a veteran of the U.S. Army.

The keynote speaker was Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam War veteran and TV military consultant Jack Jacobs who has appeared on many network news shows, mainly NBC and MSNBC.

Jacobs spoke of the benefits to businesses that hire veterans because of their training and ability to carry out a plan.    He says vets are well prepared and are an asset to our work force, although it's not widely viewed that way.  Jacobs urged employers and the Trump administration to continue to have programs that support a workforce with veterans.

In Santa Barbara County alone there are 30,000 veterans.

"My first assignment was with the 82th Airborne," said Jacobs who recalled the infantry division of the United States Army.  He said early on he was responsible for 160 men.

"There's nothing like military service that gives young people authority and responsibility at an early age. Nothing like it," he said.  " People who serve time in a uniform can do anything."

Jacobs often speaks to industry leaders and says "offering jobs to veterans is not charity. These are 'the' best people."    He goes on to say "'they are more qualified to do what you are doing than you are.'"

A special guest speaker was KEYT anchor Beth Farnsworth who spoke of her father's numerous combat missions in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.  He was shot down twice and survived both of the violent encounters.   Farnsworth and her husband (and co-anchor) C.J. Ward spoke emotionally and humorously together at the podium.  

There was also a special recognition for the Di Loreto family with the Generations of Service award.  Venanzio Di Loreto, Silvio Dante Di Loreto, Aldo Di Loreto and Lucio (John) Di Loreta all served in the military, dating back to 1918. 

The Military Ball event first began in 1996.  Pierre Claeyssens was a Belgian-born immigrant.  American soldiers liberated his homeland in World War I.   He pledged that all veterans would be honored and never forgotten.   

The Claeyssens foundation supports numerous services and events for veterans including college resource centers, health care services, reintegration, housing assistance  and parades on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and 4th of July along with the significant military dates in history.

Veterans Day events coming up include a ceremony at the Santa Barbara Cemetery Saturday November 11 at 10 am.

Sunday at noon there will be a Veterans Day parade on State Street.

It will be followed by a parachute landing scheduled for Cabrillo Boulevard between State St. and Castillo at 1:30 pm.

The 5th annual Salute to the Vets in partnership with the Santa Barbara Veterans Foundation will take place from noon until 5 pm on Sunday at the Carriage and Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara on Castillo St.  A $5. donation will be requested at the door.  A tri-tip BBQ lunch will be available.

The event will be hosted by Drew Wakefield and performances will include the honored La Boheme dancers who will have a special historic military routine.

There will also be a pin up girl costume contest.

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