Veterans Aware: Navy Blue Angels excellent, air show promoters shameful

stock image, St. George News

OPINION – Yeah, I know that I lack tact; that comes from coming to the conclusion during 17 months of being a Marine grunt in Vietnam, there just isn’t enough time to waste a minute when something needs to be done or someone needs some “visiting with.”  Outside of some indirect grousing and outright ankle-biting backstabbing, I haven’t been taken on through letters to the editor or comments to my articles, so most of you seem to like to hear it direct … and I know that doesn’t mean you agree with my rant.  I don’t consider anonymous “vents” valid because I believe someone who won’t put their name on what they say about others doesn’t deserve to be listened to.

Anyway, I sat through the “Thunder Over Utah” air show Saturday and was mightily impressed with the aerobatic excellence of the Blue Angels, the Golden Knights, that guy in that really fast jet, and that other guy in the red and white prop-driven whirling dervish.  I loved the school bus (although it would have gotten me to school way too fast).  What will leave an indelible foul taste in my mouth is everything, in toto, about Kevin Walsh, Herb Gillen, and their band of merry privateers.   I don’t know what their mission statement is but it probably parallels something P.T. Barnum once said (and this is off-a-little for sure), “There’s a Sucker born every minute.”

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in standard blue and yellow Navy colors, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in standard blue and yellow Navy colors, St. George, Utah, July 26, 2014 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

These guys bring in one of the top military heart throbs – the Blue Angels are loved by fellow military, loved by the American public, and experience world renown for their class style and precision.  Where’s the discount for military veterans who also signed that they would die for their country if necessary?  Where’s the discount for the disabled military veterans who also signed to die if necessary and gave parts of their bodies and/or minds for the American capitalistic principles that Mr. Walsh and his band of carpet baggers so rapaciously enjoy?  Where’s the discount for the current uniform-wearing military that may have to give their life any time in the name of our besotted foreign policy?  Nothing man, there ain’t no break for veterans!

You say you let all those 15-and-under in free and that’s a big concession for Utah  families?  Only an idiot would not see that you, through the concessionaires who paid through the nose to be a part of your money-making blitz, will make four or five times the amount of the entry fee in cokes, juices, ice cream, funnel cakes, and “I-saw-the-Blue-Angels” pins and hats.   No Mr. Walsh, you left NOTHING on the table.  I notice that you had abundant stretches of delay and “dead-air-time” for those kids to pour those profits into your pockets!  I also noticed that the promised “Soft drinks and water all day” promise at least in the “Fighter Club” (highest consumer ticket – $80) was a lie.

I think the worst that the public can know about, however, is that you refused to allow the Veterans Affairs Mobile Vet Center to have a placement in your scant vendors and display areas on Saturday.  The St. George Vet Centers’ Mission is to support our Combat Veterans in making the incredibly difficult transition back to father/mother, husband/wife, daughter/son or brother/sister from warrior.  It is hard to get them into treatment before their marriages fail, they become addicted to one of several spoilants, run afoul of the law, or end their own life, but you want $1,400.00 to have the Mobile Vet Center, a visual reminder of incredible sacrifice and service, placed on “YOUR” airport.

Have you no shame Mr. Walsh?  The MVC was not going to sell trinkets, food, drinks, medical marijuana, or give psychic readings; we just wanted to remind folks we’re here.  We can’t even ask for donations and the employee(s) manning the MVC would have one of their days off in pursuit of our mission.

When the MVC was refused access at the gate on Saturday morning by Mr. Walsh’s team, some of our own St. Georgians (volunteers) attempted to contact those on the City team who had promised MVC admittance, but they were met with resistance.  Our own great Mayor Jon Pike was informed and he immediately contacted the Airport Manager, Mr. Stahmeier, who ordered that the MVC be admitted on Sunday.  I am grateful, Mr. Walsh, that our Mayor is NOT a patriot-for-hire like yourself, that he is a man who stands by and for our veterans and citizens while folks like you, clearly, stand only with your hand out.

The folks of St. George also need to know that the meet with the Southern Utah Veterans Home and the Blue Angels was anything but your doing Mr. Walsh; that was ALL St. Georgians and the United States Navy!

Lt. Cmdr. Mark DeBuse greets veterans from the Southern Utah Veterans Home at a special audience with the Blue Angels, St. George, Utah, July 25, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Lt. Cmdr. Mark DeBuse greets veterans from the Southern Utah Veterans Home at a special audience with the Blue Angels, St. George, Utah, July 25, 2014 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Thanks for bringing the Angels, the Golden Knights, and those two men in their spectacular machines but please don’t bump your head on the Delicate Arch as you leave our city.

Bruce Solomon is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Posted in Columnists, Events, Life, Opinion / Columns / ShowsTagged , , , , , , ,

37 Comments

  • Speck Tater July 30, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Bruce,
    Thanks for your insight. And a belated thank you for your military service.

    While I “hope” this may have been a lack of communication on the part of the air show staff, I fear it was nothing more than a “pay to play” gambit on the part of the promoters.
    I understand the weather caused a scheduled break to be taken earlier than planned, but I now have to wonder how much longer it was drawn out to give the crowd more time to make purchases.
    It’s sad when profiteering is wrapped in the flag of patriotism to help a few greedy people make a buck.

  • Doug July 30, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Mr. Solomon, I agree with you, but first I would like to say, The Blue Angels were great as always, the Golden Knights were fun, these folks always come with their “A” Show. The performances were great from all.

    It really surprised me that we were not graced with any of these groups on Saturday. The Bomber Club also ran out of drinks that were promised by early afternoon and they also allowed more people in than they had chairs for, so much for paying for the perks. The time between performances was ridiculous, I understand the wind came up and grounded 2 planes, those 2 planes wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the hours that passed waiting between performances.

    We were also disappointed with the direction for parking and exiting. Long lines of cars just sitting, idling, waiting, while volunteers and police seemed to be in groups talking amongst themselves. It was hard to believe this wasn’t their first time doing this.

    I wasn’t fortunate enough to serve in the military, but they really need to show some respect for the folks that have, especially at events like this one. I guess it is what to expect from a private organization in this day and age.

  • VJ July 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I absolutely could not agree more! thank you for this. I grew up going to airshows and usually military / veterans were heavily discounted or even free. This show saved the best weather for “intermission” instead of getting planes up in the air, concessions (who most I believe were run by the city) charging 4 to 5x the amount for horrible food (and using volunteers to run some of those booths). Advertisements over the p.a. system (how much did they charge for that airtime?) Private plane owners charging a “donation” to take a peek in to their planes. Unbelievable. I almost hope the Blue Angels decline to ever come back to Saint George, some may begin to affiliate them with the greedy money hungry people who run this lame excuse for an airshow.

  • The Rest Of The Story July 30, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Well said, thank you!
    As a veteran, I’m constantly humbled by the gratitude shown by Utahns. I served willingly and don’t feel entitled to any of this gratitude, nor do I expect it. It is always a pleasant surprise when offered. But on the other side of the coin, anytime a veteran is maltreated I feel indignant. People have the right to their opinions, but their freedoms to express their opinions didn’t come for free. Someone paid a price for them! Many paid with their lives–others paid with life-changing injuries, disabilities and their lingering effects. Whether you agree with wars, you cannot divorce yourself from the fact that a military is there to protect and serve you and everything you value.
    Thank you to every fellow veteran and member of the military for your service!

  • Joel Love July 30, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Thank you so much for a very professional, yet aggravated, column. I too am ashamed at the disgrace our vets face. I wasn’t around during Vietnam times, but I understand those vets were treated very poorly. The vets of all ages, though they don’t act like they deserve any discount, appreciate the sign of gratitude when someone says “hey let me give you a discount for your service”. I will not go to another air show in St. George if our vets are treated so poorly. And for the MAC to only be allowed in on Sunday is horrible. Most of St. George is LDS, and the church practices not spending money on Sunday. Therefore, the smallest attendance would be Sunday. How is that supposed to help remind everyone that the MAC is here? Disgraceful. I appreciate your column. And your service. And the service and sacrifice of every member of the Armed Services and their families.

    • shooter July 30, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      and since the government wasn’t helping pay for your entrance, pay for any of the performers, the fuel, or anything for that matter… who did you want to provide that for you? Next time skip the St. George show and head to Nellis, they will have all those freebies that are paid for with my taxpayer dollars.

  • BSMETER July 30, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Amen Brother!

  • Kacey July 30, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I was completly inaware that this happened, I completely agree.

  • Clydeman1 July 30, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Well written, good sir!

  • Dick July 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Loved the article it needs to get out to more southern Utahans.

  • Ron Olroyd -- Chu Lai '69-'70 July 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Thanks Bruce, I agree 100%, except your comments are way less severe than my own feelings on this. But I know we ‘Nam Vets need to dig down deep at times to find that public moderation we need.
    Thanks for your (continuing) service and “Welcome Home” Brother.

  • utahbiller July 30, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    You have to wonder how much the promoters made? I just looked at the article about ticket prices and rules. We watched the Blue Angles at airport in Battle Creek when we still lived in Michigan. I don’t remember paying for tickets and I know we brought our lawn chairs and cooler.

  • Wolfe44 July 30, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Why should vets get in free? What about teachers, firemen, doctors, or any other noble profession? Vets don’t have s monopoly on sacrifice. How about we let everybody so their jobs they choose to do and not wine about who’s not getting special privileges on admission fees?

    • Neal Greeley July 30, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      really wolfe44? a person giving an opinion with no name.

  • Brett Menzie July 30, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    We were told to not bring water or food and water would be provided. They didn’t say it would be hot water. There was also ok enforcement for the rule breakers.

    The flying was scarce and you had to be right in front of the speakers to hear any explanations or announcements.

    The parking in a dirt lot for $15 was atrocious. The volunteers had no idea what they were doing in directing people for parking (I blame lack of training), and the traffic control in the afternoon to leave the event was chaos. No real organization or planning (at least it seemed that way).

    Greedy promoters are to blame.

  • Paul Jensen July 30, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Woo Hoo! Sic ’em Bruce. Thanks for the heads up.

  • lp July 30, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I went to the air show on sunday and it was not at all delayed in any way. I thought it would be but it ran very smoothly.

  • Really? July 30, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Military Performance was fantastic. I was disappointed at the lack of AIR PLANES at an air show like this. wolfe44, you are just trying to piss people off. Mostly the reason is because it isn’t just a “noble profession”. You would be speaking German or Japanese if it weren’t for our vets. 5 bucks off a ticket is a small price to pay.

  • HiFlyer July 30, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    I completely disagree with this posting. Kevin Walsh bent over backwards for the vets. The vet center in Ivins was invited to attend the Blues practice session on Friday. They rolled into the airport with 4 buses and unloaded the veterans into the bomber tent to watch the Blues. All of these vets were created by the Blues. It is also a known fact that Mr. Walsh gave this Bruce permission to put his trailer in the spectator area free of charge. Somebody has there facts crossed up here. There were Veterans all over the place. Including a bunch on the front line. JROTC and Civil Air patrol as well. Sorry to hear that one person had a communication gap with getting the vets trailer inside the airfield on Saturday, and yes, extra steps were taken to correct this issue on Sunday.

  • shooter July 30, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    While there is usually so much more to the background of most stories – this is no exception. No event ever goes without a hitch, you really should do your homework and ask some these same questions to people who can provide you with some insight rather than blast away in an open forum. I assure you that you actually know very little. It’s the very people like you that will discourage any future events in this city. While your service is appreciated, I think your pissing up the wrong tree with your criticism. It’s unfortunate, but then again if you wanted free or discounted, that section was out on the hillside with the other free-to-see crowd.

  • Hiflyer July 30, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    90% of this article is wrong information. The Vets center was approved by Kevin Walsh to put there trailer at the airshow at no costs to the veterans. Contact with Kevin to place the trailer should have happened a day or two before airshow day. Things mentioned about Kevin Walsh in this article is not true. Kevin even opened up to the vets home in Ivins. 4 buses rolled in on Friday to watch the Blues practice and meet the Blues. The bomber tent was also used by the disabled veterans at NO charge. A communications gap is all this was .

    • Will July 31, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Then why did they turn away the Mobile vet center.

      Furthermore, why did no one from the producers respond to my numerous email requests for an outreach booth for the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Washington County Veterans Foundation…nary a response…Other tried as well. I know they got them, because they added me to there email list and filled my email box marketing materials.

      Just so the public knows, we would have paid entry fees if we could have had a place for canopy and an information table, with which to reach out to veterans. Instead most of boycotted the event.

      In regards to Kevin opening up the Airport site for the Ivins vets, I do not know what effort, if any he made to accomplish this. There is some subjective evidence that he may have opposed it.

      It almost did not happen, but for the efforts of Bruce. What I do know is Bruce worked on this for months, and the decision was made by the Secretary of Navy, and his command. Kevin Walsh could not have said no if he wanted too. Well, maybe he could, maybe the navy has changed its traditions since my cousin John was Secretary, and I was serving….

      I can also say this being a veteran of many Airshows, I have never attended another one that Active Duty Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardmens were not permitted to enter for free if in the proper uniform of the day. I can not say that I ever got a discount as a veteran…but lowes, Home Depot, Oriely’s, and almost every hotel I have ever stayed in does…

      Finally, the whole event seemed a little pricey to me. The parking fee, plus entry seemed a little excessive. The vendor prices I understand as their is a need to make some money. I even understand an entry fee, since the marketing cost money and the folks who put it on have to make some money. But lets get real, homeland is paid by taxes, the fuel cost of the blue angels is paid by the tax payer, the St George PD is paid tax payer, and numerous other cost were covered by the public treasury, so you would think that concession for our active duty personnel, and a discount for our veterans might have been in order…

  • D Hodja July 30, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    21 year veteran of two wars and I always have gladly paid my way to every air show I have attended. I am however, confused by why Utah is one of the lone States that actually charges their veteran’s a special fee for a military service license plate…I will never forget how confused I was when I was told I had to pay a fee to show my service affiliation, and on top of it the plate says “Utah honors veterans”… Sorry but if that is honoring veterans, charging them an extra fee for a sticker, I prefer to not be honored by Utah.

    • flyboymikeh July 31, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      Great Point! That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but since when did the government make any sense?! Especially these days!

  • Tre July 30, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Wolfe, you miss the point. If this were a venue promoting law enforcement, I would agree law enforcement should get in free. This was a venue given by members of our military, whom I love and respect very much. They are honored and should have gotten in free. This wasn’t to encompass all noble professions, which law enforcement and teachers and many other professions like MD’s, engineers and pilots certainly are. I appreciated this article and it’s views. We didn’t pay anything for admission at the show in 2012 in Kane’ohe on the air base and I recall military recruiter booths being there. But no VA reps. Thank you for your service and sacrifice of peaceful dreamless nights. My grandfather still wakes in a sweat from what he saw and experienced. I will support the Blue Angels and military, but don’t think we’ll be attending another military-less activity whose purpose it is to showcase our men and women in military uniform.

  • Jerry July 30, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Since we are being “direct” and all:

    No one loves our servicemen and women more than I do. I have not served, but I have several family members who have and do. Most of them who saw action rarely speak of it. What I don’t agree with, however, is this notion that just because someone is a vet, that they should get special treatment. It is called service for a reason. There is no entitlement that comes with being a vet, except honest gratitude. I have the greatest respect for honorable military service, but I loose that respect when that “service” is used to demand special treatment. Where is the honor in that? That is not to say that we can’t treat vets with respect and offer special treatment(and I think we should), but the demand for such is, frankly, below honor.

  • Bruce Solomon July 30, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Hiflyer, if your initials are BK you’re stock is dropping even more that it did when we talked on the phone Saturday at 11:45am. You KNOW the facts of this article are NOT even 5% off! If your initials aren’t BK you’d better talk to BK before you do anymore spin and white-washing about this. …, read the other comments and just be ashamed.
    Ed. ellipsis

  • EL JEFE July 31, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Money is the root of ALL evil. Too bad that there are many who will use the “patriotic message” to line their pockets. Carpet baggers IS the correct description of these individuals. They have no shame.

  • M. Collins July 31, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Well said………and thanks for pointing this out.

  • flyboymikeh July 31, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Regarding TOU 2014, I must admit . . . I am not “in the know” as to whether or not vets were allowed in for free or not, but if they were charged, then that is a big mistake and or problem and should not have happened.

    I have been to many an airshow, and aviation is my life’s work as a commerical pilot. Following the show my children asked me what rating I would give it, and my reply was a “6.” That rating of “6” was for the Blues and also for the Golden Knights (but mostly for the Blues 🙂 It is always great to see the Blue Angels and I do so every year at least once a year and if it wasn’t for their attendance at Thunder Over Utah 2014, this show would have been a complette bust. I spent over $350.00 to bring my whole family, and while I do not blame the promoters for the weather, maintenace issues the Blues had etc, I am still very disappointed that more performers . . . jet performers, did not, or were not planned for. I know governent budget or other military operational concerns may have kept such performers as the F-22 Raptor or an F-16 from “Viper West” (Hill, AFB) from participating, but this was my second and last time I will drop good money for this airshow if there are not more “substantial” acts next time around. I was in the Bomber Club this time and in 2012 and I agree with other comments made here . . . have plenty of drinks and seating on hand since that is what was advertised and people like me paid for! Lastly, while I love our military and even teach WWII history at the university level, lets do away with the WWII re-enactment . . . really kinda lame and or a real snoozer. I admit that I am a bit spoiled since I regularly attend Miramar’s airshow each year in San Diego, and it will take time to perhaps build Thunder Over Utah into a really respectable event, but I thnk I will not be one of the first to buy tickets next time, but rather take a “wait and see” attitude with what else besides the Blues will attend before I go for the “near-deluxe” package. If Ihad it to do over again, I would drop $10 bucks for parking, showm up at 2pm and watched the Blues from the parking area. Not only would it have been great seeing the Blues form that vantage point, I would have saved a ton of money and beaten all the traffic leaving the show to boot!

    To end on a postive note however, I am grateful for, and appreciate all the work that goes into planing for such an event. Getting the Blue Angels to come is a monumental, and somewhat expensive task in and of itself; I know what is requiresd and the months of preparation that must be executed properly. Not many people realize that before March 2012, when the Blues were here in Utah the last time, that it had been nearly 30 years since they last performed in the skies over Utah and the promoters of Thunder Over Utah at least deserve a thanks for ending that long “drought” of precision flying excellence. Again, it takes real drive and commitment to wanting to pull something like this off and unfortunately, far too many of us are too self absorbed, demanding and selfish to realize that something of this magnitude will never go off without a hitch or two, but gratitude and appreciation for at least trying has its place too! -M.H.

  • brook price July 31, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I already left a little message for Kevin Walsh via his website contact form that simply said, “Dear Mr Walsh, I heard what you did at the Blue Angels Air Show in St George this year. As a Marine Corps veteran it’s obvious you have neither dignity not honor.” If you would like to reach out to Kevin Walsh directly via his website, here is the link: http://www.airshowconsulting.com/contact.php

    • Orwellsboy August 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Lets stop pretending that any veteran except WWII vets have “served” the American people. I hate to break it to those all those who wrap themselves in the American flag and want a “deal” for the rest of your lives because you killed some guy – (who like you was drafted, tricked, or lied to in order to put on a uniform and hold a gun) in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan.
      You are only serving the STATE and its interests- you aren’t serving me, or anyone else in America other than the military industrial complex and the U.S Government’s illegal and immoral wars.
      But it makes you feel better to think that you were actually serving us- but you were, and we don’t owe you a darned thing, besides you got PAID and you get BENEFITS, so stop with the “military welfare” mentality- it just makes you look like a street beggar. Vietnam was over a long time ago, get over it- after the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korea G.I’s just came home and got to work without all these silly excuses and pleas for “respect”- and they saw 10x the horror that you did. Move on solider.

  • Red Rocker August 1, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I am a Vet who doesn’t expect to have my ass kissed for doing my duty.
    The air show was great.

  • San August 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

    They actually charged Vets and those holding military ID cards? OMG. I’m glad we didn’t go now. I’d have been as incensed as the author, who by the way deserves to have his a## kissed. Insane.

  • bob August 1, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    *yawn* more small town drama

    • Floyd E Kitchen August 2, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      My opinion surely amouts to more than just a” *yawn*” and “more small town drama” It’s called RESPECT. Veterans from all era’s have had to endure attitudes from people and Family members that can’t find reason to except the price it cost for our Freedom in this Country. Some that never served usually yell he loudest. Even some Family members of Veterans treat there own with disrespect to the tune of destroying Family values beyond repair. Those that benefit from Military Pride for there own glory and I am sure monetary value from shows, then slams the Veterans during and after should be ashamed of themselves.
      Veterans are not looking for a dollar or and expectation to have there “ass kissed for doing there duty” All we are looking for is respect for walking the walk when we were called upon to protect what this United States of America was built on. ” ONE NATION UNDER GOD with LIBERTY and JUSTICE for ALL. To understand this a person should humble him or herself and not try to destroy what we believe in.
      I learned from The Lakota People years ago that HUMILITY, TRUST, INTEGRITY, and PRIDE was critical to have HARMONY in our lives even in the World. Veterans live in Harmony as a Brotherhood and Sisterhood with one another. We had to in order to survive the wars we all endured. It carried on when we returned home with RESPECT and HONOR amoungst ourselves. It will never be broken. Far from what some felt and still feel obviously outside the Veterans Community. There are some in our community and others around this country that refuse to respect our Warriors for some reason or another. Shame on You. I am sorry you don’t know your facts.
      Thank You Blue Angels and Black Knights from The United States Navy and The United States Army for bringing your Pride of our Military to St George, Utah. Thank You for your Respect to our Ivan Veteran’s Home Veterans. The smiles on there face as you saluted them and shook there hands with HONOR and RESPECT was a payment that can’t be equaled. It is a sign that our Brotherhood and Sisterhood of our Armed Forces is strong and on display to all. I would hope some took notes to how it works. A Love that can’t be broken by the few that want to displace it. I hope that in future shows RESPECT can be shown not only from Family but those in charge on the ground. The Ground that our Veterans continue to protect with pride. My Father was in The Landing of Anzio, Italy during WWII and walked all the way to Dachau, Germany to liberate The Jews from Hitler. I have always had a deep RESPECT and HONOR for his Service as he did mine. He and I discused eachothers wars frequently in his ladder years. He was my HERO. He is gone now but that same RESPECT is still engrained deep in my Heart. Is it that hard to have the same for our Armed Forces, Veterans and there Families? I don’t think so.
      Semper Fi Marine. You hit The Nail on The head with your opinion. Well written from The heart of a Brother.

  • Floyd E Kitchen August 3, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I stand as corrected. Golden Knights not Black Knights.
    “One Nation Under God, Indivisable, with Liberty and Justice for All”.
    Sorry for the Mistakes.

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