Veterans Day will be observed locally and across the country on Nov. 11. But a Tehachapi man has worked for a year to ensure that the stories of 25 Kern County residents who served in the military are told and preserved.
Military historian and author Craig Luther said he was inspired by Claudia Baker, publisher of The Loop, to write a series of articles on Tehachapi and Kern County veterans. The subjects of the articles — which have been compiled into a book — range over three generations, Luther said, from Omaha Beach in Normandy to Ramadi and Baghdad, Iraq.
The book, “Our Soldiers’ Stories: Kern County goes to war — from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Iraq,” is Luther’s ninth book. It includes a foreword by Alex Athans, a Vietnam veteran and Tehachapi resident who is active in many local veterans organizations and activities.
Luther said he had such a great response to the series of articles that he decided to publish them in book form — along with more than 80 photographs and the talk that he gave at the Kern County Museum on the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion in 2019.
He said the vast majority of a planned print run of 1,500 softcover and 200 hardcover books will be donated to three organizations to be sold to raise funds for the groups. Groups benefiting from this effort will be the Jason E. George Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12114 of Tehachapi, the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery in Bakersfield and the Charles B. Burdick Military History Center at San Jose State University. The hardcover books will be numbered and signed by the author.
Luther is still about $1,500 short of the $10,000 or so needed to fund the publication and he welcomes additional contributions to provide books for the groups to sell. The book will also be available for sale on Amazon.com, but he hopes people will buy them from the groups to assist with their fundraising.
“The stories really resonated with folks here in Tehachapi and throughout much of Kern County,” Luther said. The book has been prepared for publication and is expected to be available in early December.
Acknowledging that the book and articles appeal to an older demographic, Luther said he hopes that they will be shared with young people.
“Too many don’t appreciate the sacrifices of these incredible men and women,” he said. Some, he said, had never told their stories before.
Luther will be among other local authors at the second Military History Authors Book Signing, hosted by the Kern County Museum, 3801 Chester Ave., Bakersfield, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20. There is a $10 admission fee for those who aren’t members of the museum.
Several of Kern County’s top military history authors will sign and offer their books for sale at great prices, he said. Authors’ book topics include the history of flight (civilian and military) in early 20th Century Kern County, World War II and Vietnam.
“We will also be joined by historical novelist Lauraine Snelling and the Kern County Historical Society (offering books on local Kern County history),” Luther said. Refreshments will be available.
For more information about the new book or the Nov. 20 event call or email Luther at 661-303-8884 or email@example.com.
Portrait of a Warrior Gallery
Luther and Athans are among supporters of the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery in Bakersfield and both were present on Saturday, Oct. 30, for the presentation of Major Jason E. George’s West Point ceremonial sword, which is on loan to the gallery.
George’s story is among those included in Luther’s new book. A 1988 graduate of Tehachapi High School, he was killed on May 21, 2009 by an improvised explosive device detonated while he was serving in the Army near Baghdad, Iraq.
VFW Post 12114 was established in Tehachapi and named for George. The post celebrated its tenth anniversary on Oct. 23.
Other Tehachapi area fallen service members honored in the gallery include another Tehachapi native, Marvin R. Sprayberry III, and Adam O. Zanutto, who grew up in Twin Oaks, the son of current Tehachapi residents Rick and Donna Zanutto. Sprayberry was an Army sergeant who died May 3, 2004, in Iraq when his military vehicle flipped over into a canal while on a combat mission. Zanutto was in the Marine Corps. Less than a month before he would have returned home from Iraq his vehicle struck a roadside bomb on Feb. 25, 2006. He died of his injuries on March 6, 2006.
The Portrait of a Warrior Gallery features the portraits of the post 9/11 warriors from Kern County who were killed in action or died as a result of wounds suffered on the battlefield. The gallery at 1925 Eye St., Bakersfield, is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. More information is available online at https://kern-warrior.org/.
Tehachapi Veterans Day events
Veterans Day events in Tehachapi will include a family-oriented celebration at Philip Marx Central Park, Mojave and E streets, in downtown Tehachapi and a concert. All events are free.
Sponsored by the Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park District, the event at the park will include live reenactments, a display of authentic military vehicles and a kid’s boot camp course. Youngsters who participate in the course will receive an official “dog tag.”
The traditional event will begin at 11 a.m. with flag ceremonies. Tehachapi City Councilwoman Christina Scrivner will sing the national anthem. American Legion Post 221 is hosting a food drive during the event and requests donations of non-perishable items to be distributed by the Salvation Army. Food will be available at the park from P-Dubs restaurant and there will be music.
At 6:30 p.m. the Outreach Singers will present a free concert “Let Freedom Ring” at St. Jude’s in the Mountains Anglican Church, 1200 S. Curry St., Tehachapi.
Under the direction of Jerry Hasell, the concert is a tribute to veterans. Familiar patriotic songs will be featured. Veterans in attendance are encouraged to wear uniforms or hats designating their branch of service.