AMERICAN CANYON — Upon receiving his first letter from a sitting United States president, Clyde Gambles’ excitement quickly turned to disappointment when he realized the letter’s content.
He was being drafted, a fate that would be the start of a 24-year career in the Unites States Army.
“Basically it said I was being inducted, or drafted, into the military,” said Gambles, president and CEO of the United States Military Veteran Family Resource Center, Inc., as he gave the keynote address at the Veterans Day observance in American Canyon on Sunday.
“It went from a smile to a frown. But I remember my mother telling me, ‘Your nation has called upon you and you can’t stay here.’”
Though now retired from the armed forces, Gambles works closely with service members, helping them and their families find life and success after war.
“I felt that we should meet them not only at the door, but we should meet them when they’re getting off the plane, especially those returning from combat,” Gambles told the crowd that gathered at the city’s community center. “If one of us helps another one and that one person helps someone else, we can change the way we do business in our towns, communities and cities at the grassroots level.”
Others who spoke before Gambles gave similar messages, several saying it is not enough to honor veterans just once a year. They said with veterans returning from the Middle East, creating and sustaining support networks is even more important now than it has been for decades.
“I ask that you not wait until the 11th hour of the 11th day of this 11th month to say ‘Thank you’ to a veteran,” City Councilwoman Belia Ramos Bennett said. “While procrastination has its place in life, remember that without our veterans, we would not be free to join together on this day; we would not stand tall with the assurance to speak our own truths.”
Mayor Leon Garcia said communities must ensure veterans receive jobs, education, housing, medical attention and services to help them adjust to civilian life.
“As military men and women return to civilian life, let us assure they receive all that is owed to them,” Garcia said. “We enjoy all that we have because of their courageousness, their willingness to give up their lives so that we can all live free. We owe them a debt we can never repay.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, could not attend Sunday morning’s event but sent Constituent Service Representative Melissa Rodezno to read a letter he’d written.
“Whatever we think about war,” Rodezno read, “we should always, always honor our veterans.”