Pasadena Veterans Remember, Reflect, Anticipate Saturday's Special City Ceremony

The ceremony on the steps of City Hall will feature local leaders, along with past, present and future military, first responders and is open to the public

Published : Friday, November 10, 2017 | 6:12 AM

Veterans Day

For United States Marine Corps veteran and former Pasadena Mayor Bill Paparian, Veterans Day is more than saluting and moments of respectful silence. It’s more like a reunion, with family and friends, both here and departed.

“In many ways, [the military] was almost a family tradition of the men in my family,” Paparian said this week, as he served on the event committee for Saturday morning’s Veterans Day ceremony at Pasadena City Hall.

“My father is buried at the Riverside National Cemetery. Both my father and my uncle had served in the Marine Corps during World War II, and I remember my friends that grew up in the neighborhood that went on to serve, kids who were in the Boy Scouts that lost their lives during the Vietnam War,” Paparian said.

“So,” he continued, “it’s a time when we remember with some reflection, but it’s also time for remembering the warriors of the present day.”

Paparian noted that much of his work today as a criminal defense attorney is representing military veterans who’ve been traumatized by their wartime experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and other theaters of operation.

“They unfortunately find themselves for the first time in their lives thrust into the criminal justice system, and it’s a significant portion of my practice as a criminal defense attorney,” he said, with what seemed to be a mixture of pride and sadness.

The City of Pasadena will honor its veterans with a public ceremony Saturday, November 11, at 10:30 a.m at Centennial Square in front of City Hall.

Colonel Keith Nightingale, U.S. Army, Ret., is scheduled to be the featured speaker, along with Mayor Terry Tornek, and members of the Pasadena City College Veteran Students, the Blair High School Jr. ROTC, the Pasadena Police and Fire Departments, and members of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines.

There will be a military flyover at 11:11 a.m.

“I think all of us cherish our freedom, and recognize that we have a unique ability to operate in this country in a way that people around the world envy,” said Mayor Tornek Thursday. “The reality is, that the world can be a tough place, and it’s the armed forces that defend those freedoms. It typically has been the men and women of the armed forces who have paid the most direct price in order to maintain those freedom, so it’s entirely appropriate that Pasadena would acknowledge Veterans Day on November 11th, every year, and that’s why we do it in front of city hall and that’s why I participate in it on behalf of the city.”

Like many career soldiers, Colonel Nightingale understands the respect and confidence of years spent in a country’s service.

“Those were probably the best 29 years of my life, in terms of feeling useful and a real purpose,” he said. “It’s something larger than yourself. So the military was always something I was going to go into as kind of a family tradition. So I greatly enjoyed it,” though he added, gracefully, “there are some moments of exception.”

Of those “moments of exception,” Nightingale says only, “I had a couple tours in Vietnam where things got sporty for a couple of moments. But generally, it was good just to be with good people doing something more important than just trying to make money.”

Vietnam War Veteran Rich Castellano, 72, said he didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, explaining, “I was 19 and I was drafted, and what that meant is that I went kicking and screaming.”

“I went to John Muir High School in Pasadena,” he continued, “and when I was a Junior in the boy’s PE, they signed us all up. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what the Selective Service was, but that’s how they found us, and at 19, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life,”

Castellano saw combat in Vietnam, and admits that the reaction by people to today’s vets irks him a bit. Supporting the troops has become a superficial cliche, he said.

“If you want to do something for a vet, take him to dinner, take him to lunch, just something simple. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming,” he said.

Castellano has worked with younger returning soldiers, volunteering at a VA Clinic in Downtown Los Angeles There, he discovered that group therapy is simply anger management.

“A lot of young kids there, came back with the same issues I had when I came home,” said Castellano. “When I came home from Vietnam, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome had not been a declared diagnosis until I’d been home for 14 years. So I had to go through a lot.”

But he is looking forward to Saturday’s event, saying, “It’s a good celebration, it’s a good event. There’s going to be quite a bit there. We just want to make the country aware that there a lot of veterans. It’s been estimated that there are, in L.A. county alone, 350,000 veterans. There’s a lot that still have a big need for veteran services.”

Nightingale would likely agree that most of those thousands of veterans share the same honor and camaraderie.

“I think if you talk to anybody that did serve,” he said, “they’ll probably say that that was one of the highlights and things that they most remember in their life. We’re all out off uniform a lot longer than we’re in it. But for whatever reason, wearing the uniform has a life-long impact. We’re in the situation now where 1% carries the burden for 99% and we just need to recognize that and if people have a problem with issues on programs, direct it to the government and not to the soldiers.”

Lt. Colonel Justin Anderson is Inspector-Instructor of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment stationed at facilities located at 2699 Paloma Street here in Pasadena.

“I’ve been in the Marines for 22 years. For me, being a Marine, it’s a way of life, it’s what I’ve dedicated my adult life to doing,” Anderson said this week. “Service to nation, service to my fellow Marines, making sure the Marines below me are receiving their training and mentorship and guidance they need to be successful not only as a Marine, but in life as well.”

And when you thank a veteran for his service, don’t think that doesn’t go unappreciated.

“I don’t think a day goes by when somebody doesn’t thank me for my service, and for being a Marine and for having the United States Marine Corps,” Anderson said. “That’s particularly true since I moved into the Pasadena area. The Pasadena community has very open arms and embraces its Marines.”

Summarizing and embracing the sentiments that many Americans feel on Veterans Day, Mayor Tornek said, “I think it’s important to acknowledge the contribution that our veterans have made and continue to make, and I think that Veterans Day and Memorial Day deserve to be commemorated because we all rely on the sacrifices that people make in uniform.”

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