BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Even after the sunset on Veteran’s Day, the sky was illuminated tonight with searchlights to honor those in our county who have served.
“When they look out their windows and they see these lights, they’re closing out Veterans Day 2021, what the Art Gallery stands for, for post 9/11 Veterans especially, who answered the call when those two Twin Towers fell.” Chad Garcia, a combat veteran said.
Garcia said each searchlight represents one of the Twin Towers. It was that moment that led so many Americans to join the military, including Garcia himself.
He left an electrician apprenticeship to enlist as an airborne infantryman a week after 9/11. Now on the homefront after three deployments to Afghanistan, he described seeing those first moments seeing the inaugural illumination outside the portrait of a Warrior Gallery which honors the 27 post-9/11 fallen heroes from Kern County.
“It was a somber moment. I got a few of my best friends, who are also huge contributors to the Veteran community, and who are very active on the gallery’s board, and you know just being able to stand by and look up at the sky, walk the halls of the gallery, which we all help and contribute to in some way, was really special,” said Garcia.
Between the two searchlights extending thousands of feet in the air, there are about 16,000 watts of light being used. But it's what the beams symbolize that makes them that much more powerful.
“The power of light. It draws you near, draws our hearts close. When we’re talking about those we love, those we’ve lost. That light draws us back home.” Ryan Clark Operations Manager, Searchlights of San Diego.
Clark and a fellow veteran made the couple hundred-mile drive to get these lights up, answering the call from the Portrait of a Warrior Gallery's Jason Geis.
“As soon as I arrived, I had a whole platoon of Veterans jump in to help out and I’m like, ‘no, no, no! Hang on guys, getting a little too excited here. Yes, we’ve got this,” said Clark.
The Portrait of a Warrior Gallery plans to alight the skies of Bakersfield in this way every Vietnam Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and 9/11 going forward.
“He’s asked us to support him for five more nights next year, which we’re happy to do,” said Clark.