Freedom is not free – Santa Barbara News-Press


Speakers at the Pierre Claeyssens event remember the ultimate sacrifices

COURTESY PHOTOS
Captain Charlie Plumb, former Navy fighter pilot and prisoner of war for six years, will speak today at the Santa Barbara cemetery, where the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation will present him as keynote speaker during its July 4th celebration.

After spending over 2,000 days as a prisoner of war, Captain Charlie Plumb can talk a little about freedom.

This is exactly what the pilot of the F-4 Phantom fighter jet will be doing today at the Santa Barbara cemetery, where the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation will present him as the keynote speaker during its July 4th celebration. The outdoor event will take place from noon to 1 p.m. today at the cemetery, 901 Channel Drive.

For Captain Plumb today is one of the most important days of his life.

“It’s always an important day in my life, and there are so many important days in my life – like the day I was released from prison and regained my freedoms, and it’s February 18th. , of course, that’s my wife’s birthday, so I can always remember that, “Captain Plumb told News-Press with a laugh.” Veterans Day, of course; Memorial Day; July 4th – these are all good days on my calendar and the reasons why I take a hot shower and come out very grateful for the freedom.

Col. Robert A. Long, commander of Space Launch Delta 30 and Western Launch and Test Range at Vandenberg Space Force Base, is among today’s speakers at the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation event.

The Kansas native graduated from the Naval Academy and completed Navy flight training before heading to Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, where he made the first accusatory flights in the development of what was soon called the Navy Fighter Weapons School, now known as “TOPGUN.” “The captain’s squadron, the Aardvarks, was launched on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk with Fighter Squadron 114 to fly the Navy’s hottest aircraft, the F-4 Phantom Jet.

Captain Plumb (codenamed “Plumber”) flew 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam and made over 100 aircraft carrier landings.

However, during this 75th mission, five days before the end of his tour, the fighter pilot was shot down over Hanoi, taken prisoner and tortured.

He spent the next six years in North Vietnamese POW camps. His first cell was only 8 feet long and 8 feet wide.

The prisoner of war said that while he was in the prison camp he had had plenty of time to think.

“I asked myself, ‘Why am I here? “,” Said Captain Plumb. “The answer was simple: ‘I serve my country.’ And then I challenged myself, “What country are you serving?” And I started to think about the people I love and the freedoms I once enjoyed.

“Then my mind wondered, ‘Who is responsible for these freedoms that we all enjoy? “”

For him, answering this question has become very personal.

He said his mind was focused on the men and women who wore the same uniform as him, who offered their wealth and their lives to “start this great nation.”

“And so, languishing in a prison cell far from home, I was humbled at the thought of such a sacrifice being made for all of us,” said Captain Plumb. “On this Independence Day, let us celebrate with gratitude the patriots who fought and continue to fight for our way of life.”

The war hero said that due to the pandemic, he thinks people understand the value of having the freedom to leave the house, go to the store, go to church or attend at a baseball game, “all the freedoms we enjoy, and they didn’t come easily.

“During the six years spent in this prison camp, I have thought a lot about the people who made it all possible and the people who risked their lives, their freedom and their property so that we could have this freedom to communicate, to worship and come together on July 4th, ”said Captain Plumb. “It is incumbent on all of us to reflect on this heritage and why we have it, and especially for young people, because they can lose it. “

Alongside a former fighter pilot and prisoner of war, today’s event will feature the commander of Space Launch Delta 30 and Western Launch and Test Range at Vandenberg Space Force Base – Col. Robert A. Long.

Col. Long commands range and space transport operations in support of the requirements of national commanders and combatants, as well as tests of operational and development missile systems for the Department of Defense. The Colonel is responsible for $ 8.4 billion in assets, an annual budget of $ 280 million, facilities spanning over 118,000 acres and over 11,000 military, civilian and contractors.

He shared that it was his honor to speak at today’s ceremony.

“The freedom is a blessing and the independence we enjoy today would not have been possible without those who sacrificed themselves so that we could live in a free country,” said Colonel Long. “Their dedication reminds us that preserving American freedoms comes at a high cost. “

Colonel Long has won many major awards and decorations including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with two clusters of oak leaves, the Joint Service Medal of Commendation and the Air Force Medal of Commendation.

He entered the Air Force as a distinguished graduate of the University of Washington’s AFROTC program, with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He has served a series of operational, staff and command missions in ICBM, satellite and launch operations, including serving with the National Reconnaissance Office, the DoD Executive Officer for Space Personnel, and the Office. of the Under-Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

In addition, he received his Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and is a graduate of the College of Naval Command and Staff, the School for Advanced Air and Space Studies, and the Eisenhower School.

Prior to his current post, he was Deputy Commander of Space Delta 5 at Vandenberg.

He spoke about the importance of remembering the men and women who had to fight for the freedoms Americans can now enjoy.

“Today, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, we honor their service and strive to be worthy of their immense sacrifices,” said Col. Long. “To be part of this wonderful community, to serve by your side, past and present, is a privilege in which I am honored to participate.”

e-mail: [email protected]

NO MORE FOURTH JULY COVER

– The parades are back in Solvang and Montecito. And a July 4th celebration will feature speakers in downtown Isla Vista. Stories, A2.

– A veteran combat medic dedicates his life to service. B1.

– Writers wish the United States a happy 245th birthday. See the Voices section in today’s News-Press.

–See Monday’s News-Press for the coverage of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation celebration and fireworks in Santa Barbara’s West Beach.


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