More than 100 ex-servicemen made their way onto the Valencia Country Club golf course on Monday as part of the 2021 ‘Thank a Veteran’ golf event.
This year, 136 golfers – including 103 veterans playing for free – were seen as a return to the Santa Clarita Valley’s annual tradition after last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19.
Each year, the program is designed, according to event founder and president Nancy Butler, to give veterans the opportunity to enjoy a free round of golf while also raising funds for local nonprofits. aimed at helping those who have previously served in the armed forces.
“It means a lot,” said Bill Zeko, a Vietnam veteran golfer, when asked what he thinks an event like Monday’s means for local veterans. “There are a lot of memories, and we can support each other, encourage each other. ”
In this case, as has been organized in years past, the golfers are divided into sub-groups who play the course together, often mixing and matching friends with those who have come alone. Although veterans are not asked to pay anything during the day, even to receive drinks and snacks throughout the day, non-veterans have paid a fixed fee, Butler said.
Butler announced that the 2019 event resulted in donations to both the William J. Pete Knight Veterans Home in Lancaster as well as the Blue Star Mothers of Santa Clarita Chapter. While the final list of recipients of funds generated this year has yet to be decided, at least one of the organizations will be the Battle Buddy Foundation.
At this year’s event, those in attendance had the opportunity to bid on gift baskets and participate in raffles with prizes donated by local businesses and organizations. Participants were treated to a packed lunch during the course, and the event ended with another catered meal and prizes awarded to the winning teams.
However, when asked what he thought was the most important part of the event, Lynn Helvig, a military veteran as well as the event’s board member, said it was not golf or prizes, but camaraderie shared between those present.
“A lot of people come together to have a good time and some of them have been there from the start,” Helvig said, referring to the nearly decade-long run the event has had. “I met a former shipmate here… I think everyone deserves a good moment of reflection. That’s kind of what it is.
Before the convoy of golfers leave, each year one particular veteran is recognized for their service. This year, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger paid tribute to Navy veteran Ken Hasler, who served in the US Navy Construction Battalion during the Vietnam War.
Hasler received a flag that flew over Washington, DC, in his honor as well as a proclamation from the LA County Board of Supervisors which Barger said represented “the thanks of 10 million LA County residents. who thank you for your service and for all that you have done on behalf of the citizens.
The former “Navy Seabee,” as members of the Construction Battalion are colloquially known, dedicated the recognition to other members of his team who helped build bridges, hospitals, roads and water systems. in areas affected by the Vietnam War during the war. He said many Vietnam veterans at the time returned home with hostile greetings and saw Monday’s event as the opposite of those receptions decades ago.
“I’m afraid it may come down to the indifference we had when we got back from Vietnam, but it’s wonderful,” said Hasler, who added that he was shocked when his name was called out by Barger at the event. . “It means a lot.”