Being born less than a year after the U.S. directly entered World War II, I spent a lot of time watching never-ending episodes of “Victory at Sea” and John Wayne’s war movies.
It seems the battles, the Holocaust and our military, particularly the brave men and women who served, has always been in my thoughts. As it turned out my biological father left for the war in Europe shortly after I was born, returned home after peace was declared, and passed away shortly after. When my mother remarried five years later, I learned my adoptive father served in World War II in the Navy, his older brother, an Army sergeant, served in the Pacific, and his younger brother in the Army Air Corps, training B-29 navigators. It was a time when patriotism was a virtue, and their effort was overwhelmingly appreciated and supported.
With my family’s history, you might imagine what I think about, and how unhappy I become, when I see articles, written by young adults, who cannot bear to hear about World War II in school, because they think it is too upsetting. If that did not seem cowardly and childish enough, I just came across an article that asserted 60% of today’s high school students did not know about the Holocaust, making me wonder what is being taught in schools. Plus, with Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, this past week, I was again reminded how none of my east European family members survived the war. All my grandmother’s relatives were marched out of their small town in Poland and shot by Nazi soldiers.
Yet as much as I appreciate our men and women in uniform, God had other plans for me. Military service would not be in my future, and his plan was punctuated when I survived 14 hours of surgery in 1955. So, after I graduated electronic school in 1961, I only applied at two companies, Lockheed in Burbank and Litton Guidance in Beverly Hills. I received offers from both, with Lockheed’s offer coming in after I was already working and settled in at Litton.
At Litton, I was a part of designing and manufacturing inertial navigation systems for military aircraft, missiles and torpedoes. My military heroes were again, front and center on my mind when, during the Vietnam war, we would receive A-6 components for overhaul and repair with bullet holes showing.
Even with those experiences occurring a long time ago, I continue to feel obligated to those who risk it all to protect our country and our freedom. You may have seen pictures of “Mark, Joe and I” on Facebook, riding a benefit for an organization working to help prevent service members from succumbing to suicide every day. Today’s service members, even when no longer active, continue to serve by helping one another, their families and our community.
In Santa Clarita there are two military fraternal organizations that immediately come to mind. In downtown Newhall, across from the Newhall Library, stands American Legion Post 507, and on Sierra Highway, just north of Vasquez Canyon Road, is Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6885. So, when I became aware the 12th Annual Sarah Adames benefit ride, sponsored by American Legion Post 507, was being held on Sept. 13 and was leaving from VFW 6885’s compound, our group of three motorcycle musketeers were ready to take part.
I wanted to find out more about the event. How could this be the 12th year, and I had never heard about it. So, when Mark introduced me to James, Sarah’s father, I learned a lot. Sarah Adames entered heaven on May 7, 2009, after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. During her fight against cancer, when she started losing her hair, her brother James shaved his head to show support for his sister. Then on June 2, 2009, tragedy hit the family again, when James was killed in a motorcycle accident. As I listened intently, and as the story unfolded, I recognized what a strong man their father is. A parent losing a child is a horrific event. Losing a second child is beyond comprehension. God bless all their family. Please keep them in your prayers. I know I will.
Therefore, pandemic be dammed, more than 100 motorcycles showed up to ride in memory of Sarah, with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. Almost all the motorcycles were piloted by ex-military service members and I observed riders from American Legion Posts 48 Hollywood, 311 Lancaster, 348 Palmdale, 507 Newhall and I am sure there were others as well. The entire group of 100 riders, including some with passengers, rode together in a 40-mile parade up Sierra Highway to Crown Valley Road, then right on Soledad Canyon Road to Sand Canyon, right on Sand Canyon to Sierra Highway and right to 6885. Upon arrival back at the start about noon, the crowd was served hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings.
What a great ride for a worthy cause, by a compassionate group. Next year, I will be ready to roll for Sarah again, and I intend to engage members of the Moose and Elks, as well as the general public, because this ride is open to all. In the meantime, when our area opens up, I invite you to visit the VFW, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, as these are more than just a place to stop for a drink and have a good time. Each provides a place for veterans to help veterans, and remember those who risked all, including some who gave all, to protect you and me.
So, when you see a service member on the street, in a bus, on a plane, or in a restaurant, thank them for their service. It is the least we can do for someone who did the most for us!
Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.