Antioch celebrates Veterans Day with drive-in ceremony

Bill Ridle wave while being honored as the 2020-21 Antioch Veteran of the Year.

Honor 2020-21 Antioch Veteran of the Year and Veteran for Lifetime Achievement

By Allen Payton

The residents of Antioch, under the lead of J.R. Wilson and the Delta Veterans Group, honored local veterans during a unique, drive-in Veterans Day Celebration Wednesday morning. Bill Ridle was announced and introduced as the 2020-21 Antioch Veteran of the Year and Jimmy Bean was honored with the Veterans Lifetime Achievement award.

Jimmy Bean (light blue suit) honored with the Antioch Veterans Lifetime Achievement award, by Antioch council members, former Antioch Veterans of the Year, Randy Tei (with plaque) owner of Smith’s Landing Seafood Grill and J.R. Wilson, President of the Delta Veterans Group during the 2020 Antioch Veterans Day Celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.

In addition, Tom Menasco was honored for his volunteer service with the Veterans Banner program.

Those in attendance, sitting in their cars, showed their appreciation by honking their horns.

Dr. Dan Helix, Major General (Retired) of the U.S. Volunteers, the honor guard that officiates funerals of U.S. military veterans, provided the following keynote speech:

Veterans Day 2020

By MG Dan Helix, USV (Ret.)

How great is it that we finally get to celebrate this new memorial? Looks good, doesn’t it? And I would like to personally thank Mayor Sean Wright, Mayor-elect Lamar Thorpe (Navy Veteran) and the entire City Council of Antioch in allowing the vets of this city to be so involved in the undertaking of building this tribute.

Let me start out today with a famous quote:

I did my fact checking on this quote, and it is now widely debunked as actually to have been said by the first President, George Washington, but this is one of those cases where if he didn’t say it – he should have because this is the Quote:

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

That was just too good to pass up.

It is an honor for me to speak to you today and represent the 21.8 million veterans in this country on this occasion. (and those are just ones we have with us today) 21.8 million veterans may sound like a lot, until you dig a little deeper into the math. There are 326.7 Million people in this country which puts the percentage of those who ever served in one of our country’s uniforms, and that includes the vets of War II and Korea and Viet Nam up through the current Action in Iraq and Afghanistan, at 6.7%. My dad used to say that only one in 10 Americans ever served in a uniform and the other nine are glad they did. Can’t say that anymore. 6.7%. And that dwindling percentage of the population has special knowledge of what it takes to complete the sacrifice of raising one’s hand swearing to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, and in turn the citizens of this great country. This day is not about politics. This day is not about a Commander in Chief, this day is not about elected officials. This day is about the willingness of a relatively small group of United States citizens who, despite the inherent dangers involved, who refuse to let down the guard necessary to maintain a safe, democratic, and free country.

Today we celebrate those who put others first for the sake of that freedom. While it may true that not everyone has a purely altruistic reason for raising their hand, signing the blank check of their lives over to the people and ideals of this great country, no one escapes that deep sense of the sacrifice once they have completed their term of service, be it three years or a whole career.

You know, it is common today for folks to tell us vets, when we are wearing a hat or a shirt identifying us as proud military veterans, to say “thank you for your service”. And while that is appreciated, usually because it is quite apparent that it is sincere, I find it peculiar that the group that says it more than any other is the vets themselves, one to another. I have been in several states that are very outwardly friendly toward to the military and vets, and in one state, when were out for a meal as a unit, in unform, we ran up a $300 bill. When I went to pay the bill, the cashier told me it was all taken care of, and “thank you for your service”. Wow, that was nice. But later that day, still in uniform, as I passed by a Viet Nam vet as I could see from his 4th Infantry Division hat, he looked at me and said, “Thank you for your service, sir”. All I could think of was “wow, that came from a place few could claim”. The tide has turned since the time when I was going to college. In fact, I think I know when it started to turn.  In 1983, there was still backlash at our Viet Nam vets, though it was subsiding from the mid 70’s, it was still apparent, especially where I got my commission from, the only university in the country that got combat pay – UC Berkeley.  (a little vet humor there) But seriously, things were turning from vilifying those that were simply following orders, many of whom had no choice because they were drafted.

In October 1983, American forces went to Grenada to liberate many American citizens that were going to medical school there and had been taken captive by the Cuban Army.  They were successful. The next day the Daily Cal newspaper ran a headline saying, “Thank God for the U.S. Army Rangers and the United States Marine Corps”. Clearly, they identified as students, that our forces saved lives and freed innocent people from the attempt of a tyrannical dictator to assert his will and greed in a place he thought would be inconsequential to the US. But he miscalculated the will of a free country to protect its own.

Now, I have to insert a personal story here. I was the Battalion Executive Office, less than two months away from commission when this happened. When it first happened I was called and told not to come into the unit in uniform, but rather “mufti” – civilian clothes. It was then we learned of the headline I just spoke of, and the COL decided we would conduct training as usual the next day.

The next, at the beginning of training, as I was in front of the battalion formation, I noticed a rather “non-military” appearing individual off to my left. I gave the command for the unit commanders to move their units out to training, they saluted me, I returned their salute, and this guy starts walking towards me. Well, from my previous experience on campus… I thought –  uh oh –  here it comes. My three Company Commanders saw this too and they started running towards me, thinking I was going to get myself into trouble. When this bearded individual with rather long hair, a tie dye shirt and sandals got within about ten feet of me he stopped. As I braced for the torrent of profanities that usually accompanied this proximity of Berkeley students this guy said “Man, I wouldn’t do what you do for a million bucks, But I sure am glad you’re doing it.” I mumbled a shocked, “Thanks” and turned around and went on his way. When my 3 Company Commanders got to me it was all over and they asked what he said. I just shook my head in disbelief. In my experience, that is when it turned. Now, my little story might sound a bit myopic, but I do not think it is unique. America has come around to understand that its service members and veterans 1. Answered a call bigger than themselves, 2. All of us come back changed, and that in and of itself is a sacrifice, and 3. Some of what we do has nothing to do with personal agreement or disagreement –  we follow orders, and that is what signed up to do –  for the sake of freedom, for the sake of others, for the sake of our democracy and its citizens.

This is what Veterans’ Day is all about. Selfless, sacrificial service for ideals that this country still stands for.

One last thing. I do not know if you are aware how involved with serving homeless vets the VSO’s of the area are. I have to give a shout out to my comrades in the VFW, American Legion DAV and especially the leadership of JR Wilson and the DVG. These organizations have banded together to help out so many veterans with life sustaining assistance. And the service they provide to getting homeless veterans off the street is impressive. My day job is as a Case Manager for Shelter, Inc, an organization that is very involved with housing homeless vets, and several times when it looked as though a vet was not going to be able to get housing or something needed in order to get housing, these organizations have come through doe so many. Claude Battaglia with Independent Living Resources  should be included in that group, as well.

I am proud of the Veterans in East County who have made sure that No Man (or Woman) Is Left Behind. And how nice it is to be in a community that joins with us, as wonderful support and encouragement to be a part of the solution for those veterans who have fallen on difficult times.

So on this Veterans day 2020, On behalf of those who proudly served you, the American citizen, as many of you have Thank you for your service, let us say back to you, Thank you for your support.

God Bless you, God bless our military and veterans and God Bless America.

Please check back later for more photos and videos of the ceremonies.


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Jimmy Bean honored Vets Lifetime Achievement

Bill Ridle 2020-21 Antioch Veteran of the Year

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