As the Chairman of the Veterans Home of California in Chula Vista, Kenneth Sharples ensures every veteran feels acknowledged, special and heard.
The Veterans home of California in Chula Vista is the only veterans home located in Southern California. Kenneth, along with the council of veterans are selected annually in an election within the home to ensure state agencies are within their prescribed budgets. Veterans at the home have the opportunity to vote for their representatives at the home. Due to the pandemic, the administration allowed for the council to continue for another year.
Kenneth was born in Utah and raised in California. His family moved to Anaheim, where in 1965 he graduated from Anaheim High School in the thick of the Vietnam War. He said “there was no doubt that a young man in particular would be drafted. I figured, if I'm going to be drafted, I'm going to join the Air Force”.
He continued,“If I join the Air Force, at least in Vietnam I'm going to be at my own base, surrounded by my own men, with our own weapons”. Kenneth completed basic training in San Antonio, Texas and attended technical school in Amarillo. Instead of receiving orders to leave for Southeast Asia like most of his friends at the time, he was sent to a base 160 miles east of Paris, France with the Eighth Air Force.
“For a kid to go to Paris, London, Rome and Istanbul, Turkey, Cairo, Egypt, and Casablanca, you just don't have that opportunity. I really thought that because a lot of my friends were going to Southeast Asia, I would too. But there I was in the land of luxury for 3 years just totally enjoying myself,” he said.
In France, Kenneth worked on temporary duty teams that attended young men at travels to what was called war ready material bases, as stockpile bases where weapons and other assisted products belonging to aircrafts were stored. “We were still in the middle of a Cold War,” he said. These bases were placed throughout Europe. Kenneth’s job was to keep everything up-to-date so that in the event of a war, they were in a position to use the product immediately.
For six months, he resided in France until the summer of 1966 when late president of France, Charles Dougall decided to withdraw from N.A.T.O, giving Americans one year to evacuate from the county.
“It cost millions and millions of dollars to do it. We ended up flying north to Frankfurt, Germany where we had a huge Air Force base and caught a huge aircraft,” he said.
In all of his years of international experience, this particular instance was unforgettable. On June 6, 1967 while at an Air Force base in Incirlik, Turkey which is located 7 miles from Syria, Kenneth was on standby to assist Israelis. That day was first in the Six-Day Israeli War to assist.
“I was so afraid thinking ‘oh my goodness, maybe I am going to go to war’, but it did turn out to be something we will all be able to live with. You will never forget things like that,” he said.
Learning how others lived gave Kenneth perspective and was an aspect he enjoyed the most in his experience.
“In our country we take so much for granted and when you actually have to live and see people who have to boil their water to drink and so on you gain a perspective of why you fight communists and socialists, and so on.”
Kenneth shared at the veteran’s home before the pandemic, Navy personnel would volunteer on weekends and tend to the needs of the home.
"You look at these young men and women and they're smart as hell! They’re all babes in the woods. We give them multi-million dollar aircrafts, weapon systems, communication systems. It’s really amazing.”
He continued, “In Vietnam, we had a lot of people who didn't like the war and the people in uniform. They called us baby killers, and I was confronted on more than one occasion by radical individuals. Today’s military is different, they’re a different breed.”