It may have only been in its second year, but the Red White & Blue Gala held last week at the Crystal Palace showed that Bakersfield truly cares about supporting families who have lost someone in the military.
Kudos to E&B Natural Resources Management, a local independent oil and gas company, for putting on the second annual event that featured retired U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of "Lone Survivor" (which was made into a movie featuring Mark Wahlberg), and Bonnie Carroll, founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
Luttrell shared his experiences of growing up in Texas and of his and his twin brother's desire to become U.S. Navy SEALs. But he touched the audience when he discussed his harrowing, gripping experience under Operation Red Wings during the war in Afghanistan in 2005. He was part of a four-man SEAL team assigned to track and capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.
Three of the SEAL team members were killed and Luttrell, severely injured, only survived by the rescue of Afghan villagers who hid and moved him around for days as Taliban incessantly searched.
"I was in bad shape," he said. "I was dying. I knew it."
Elite Special Forces of the U.S. military later rescued the Navy SEAL. Luttrell joked about how he, a Navy SEAL, was rescued by the U.S. Army Rangers.
He finished by saying that retiring from the Navy due to injuries sustained in combat was difficult for him to bear because he considers himself a "warrior" who formed a close bond with other brothers-in-arms.
Meanwhile, Carroll gave a heartfelt story about her desire to create TAPS after losing her husband in an Army aviation accident in 1992 and finding that her pain and suffering was being felt by other women.
"We spoke the same language; we had the same fears. We shared the same hopes, the same dreams," Carroll said, noting that TAPS has expanded to provide multiple services.
According to The Californian reports, TAPS provides immediate and long-term assistance for anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one in the military.
"It is those people we are here to support," said Jim Tague of E&B Natural Resources Management.
The men and women serving in the military "would ask us to take care of their families if they were to give it their all." The event drew many who have served or are serving in the military as well as local law enforcement personnel, area lawmakers and business officials.
Tague added that a number of Kern County families have benefited through TAPS program. The charity event raised $150,000.
Bike Bakersfield: Last week, Bike Bakersfield celebrated its 10th anniversary with a dinner and awards program at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
My colleague Glenn Hammett, a well-known cyclist in town and a director of Bike Bakersfield, shared the following with me:
"The nonprofit thanked and recognized three individuals who have stepped up and supported them over the years: Brian Monroe of Glinn & Giordano Physical Therapy, Evelyn Young of Cal State Bakersfield, and Jacob Gonzales of the Kern County Roads Department.
"Bike Bakersfield was founded in 2005 by now City Councilman Bob Smith with the goal of creating a healthier, happier and cleaner community by encouraging more people to ride bikes for everyday transportation.
"Working with the city and county to make our roads more bike-friendly, teaching kids and adults how to ride safely on city streets, organizing community events and maintaining a bike kitchen in both Bakersfield and Arvin are just a few of the things Bike Bakersfield has done over the years in pursuit of their goal. The most recent example of Bike Bakersfield's efforts can be seen in the Northeast where more than 20 miles of new bike lanes were added last month."
It's encouraging to see the work Bike Bakersfield is making, and I look forward to great achievements in the years to come.
Best Of: By now many of you have received the Best of Bakersfield edition of Bakersfield Life magazine. It's one of our favorite issues of the year. However, there is an error about where to purchase tickets for one of our calendar items, and although we will be noting it in our next issue, I also wanted to clarify the information here. I am referring to the May 4 Presidio Brass concert. Tickets must be purchased through the Bakersfield Community Concert Association.
Diane Ackley, treasurer for Bakersfield Community Concert Association, shared the following details as well:
"Presidio Brass: These five young men present 'The Sounds of Cinema,' film music with wit, humor and original arrangements. They have become the face of a bold new generation of brass entertainment. This is the bonus concert for new members who join for the 2015-2016 season. They will get nine concerts for $80. Tickets can be purchased at our website, www.bakersfieldcca.org."
I am told that you can also call 589-2478 to purchase tickets. On behalf of the magazine, I apologize for the mistake.
Olivia Garcia is a Californian columnist and editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines. Send her tips at ogarcia@ bakersfield.com. Her work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are her own.