A family thanks its community

The Townsends, the Beaumonts and our extended family gathered together in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley during the last week of January to lay to rest our beloved Staff Sgt. Joshua R. Townsend, who died in Afghanistan on January 16. The story of his life, achievements and untimely death were widely reported in local and national news during the latter part of last month.

The purpose of this letter is to acknowledge and thank the entire community of the Santa Ynez Valley who expressed, in ways both large and small, outpourings of love and generosity that were truly staggering to those of us who witnessed them. To be the beneficiaries of such kindness and support is truly amazing. There are so many individuals and organizations we would like to thank!

In the days that immediately followed Joshua’s death, phone calls, emails, cards and letters began to pour in. Friends called to pay their respects with many tears, hugs, flowers and food. The offers of assistance and ways to contribute increased. Family, friends and Joshua’s Green Beret team began making plans to travel long distances to attend the services. Our amazing community rallied to offer lodging, meals, transportation and many more heartfelt acts of kindness.

On Wednesday, Jan. 28, when Joshua’s body arrived in Santa Barbara, the plane was met by family, friends, members of the military and Joshua’s Special Forces Team. There was even a water canon salute from the Santa Barbara City Fire Department along with nearly 100 motorcyclists standing by to escort Joshua home to his final resting place. The motorcade was accompanied by members of the Patriot Guard Riders, the American Legion Riders 534, and officers of the California Highway Patrol.

When the lengthy line of vehicles approached the Santa Ynez Valley, we were stunned to see people waiting for the motorcade. Cars and trucks were pulled over to the side of the road, and many people were standing at attention, with hands over their hearts or they waved the American flag. All the way into Ballard, the streets were lined with people who waited to pay tribute to Joshua, who had grown up and lived most of his life in this valley. Every flag flew at half mast, and even traffic signs carried messages of thanks for Joshua and his service to our country.

An estimated 1,500 people gathered to celebrate Joshua’s life on Friday, Jan. 30 at the Presbyterian Church of the Santa Ynez Valley. After the services, Joshua’s motorcade was again greeted by throngs of people lining the streets on the way to the Chalk Hill Cemetery. We will never forget the children of the Bethania Lutheran Day Care who lined up to greet us and waved flags in their tiny hands as we passed.

The day culminated in a wonderful reception at the Solvang Veteran’s Memorial Hall where Joshua’s family and friends joined to eat, reflect on and celebrate Joshua’s life. Many organizations and volunteers participated in the coordination of events that took place on that afternoon. We are very grateful for the donation of the venue, food, drink and all the volunteers who worked many tireless hours to feed all who attended.

Knowing full well that this list is incomplete, we would like to offer our deepest gratitude and appreciation to the following list of individuals, organizations and companies who gave so generously:

To the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians: Our heartfelt thanks to them for their incredible caring and generosity during this difficult time.

The Vikings of Solvang and the Vikings BBQ Crew: Thank you for the many wonderful meals you prepared for family, friends, and Josh’s Green Beret team. The memorial event could not have been the event it was without the many hours volunteered by the Vikings and their spouses. Thank you in particular to Chief Viking, Doug Riedy, and his tireless efforts during this time.

To Bob and Dave Young of Young Construction: Thank you for your generosity in providing vans and meals for Josh’s team members during their stay. A special thank you for your care, understanding and years of friendship.

To Will and Roberta McCoy: Thanks for opening your beautiful home for a gathering of family, friends and the entire Green Beret team. Thank you to Doug Riedy and Glen Jacobsen for the delicious BBQ at this event.

A special thanks to the Santa Ynez Valley Elks Lodge for your support at the memorial dinner. In particular, we thank Pat Sadecki and his team of volunteers.

To Mission Linen: We thank you for your generosity at the memorial event. A special thank you to Maynard Bentley who’s quick response to our needs at the Memorial Hall is greatly appreciated.

We thank the City of Solvang Parks and Recreation Department, in particular the City of Solvang for providing the use of the Veteran’s Memorial Hall.

Our heartfelt thanks the men on the Watch List, those who volunteered to stay with Joshua in an around-the-clock vigil at the Loper Chapel until his burial. In particular we wish to thank Sgt. Major Jeff McKeone, Col. Bruce Porter, and Dave Jamieson for all of their behind- the-scene efforts throughout this time.

Palmer Creative Productions:  We offer a special thank you to Ian and his incredible technical talent, which brought Josh’s spirit alive during the service and memorial event.

To Steve Sawin: We are most appreciative to your Limousine Company and team of drivers. Thank you so much!

Our thanks to El Rancho Market & Nielsen’s Market for their generosity during this time.

To the Hadsten House and the Buellton Marriott: Thank you for housing some of our family and friends!

Thank you to Bryan Petersen for your role in creating the T-shirts to be worn by all of those who love Joshua. Thank you so much, Bryan!

To the Hoag Cancer Center of Newport Beach, we thank you for your generous gift to Josh’s wife. A special thank you to you Robin!

A special thank you to Kelli Sorensen for organizing all those who provided the many desserts at the memorial.

To the Presbyterian Church of the Santa Ynez Valley: Our special thanks to Rev. Jeffrey Bridgeman

The long list of establishments, wineries and individuals for providing wine at the memorial event deserve our special thanks: Carhart Vineyard, The Red Barn, Brander, Bridlewood, Buttonwood, Casa Cassara, Curtis & Jarhead, Daniel Gehrs, Kalyra, Lion’s Peak, Longoria, Qupe, Rusack and Lisa & Keaue Kekuewa. Thank you so much!

Loper Funeral Chapel: Thank you for being one step ahead of us the entire way. Everything you did for Joshua was seamless.

To Mark Terry: Thank you for your writing skills and your inspirational rendition of “Danny Boy” at the service will never be forgotten.

Michael Benton: We thank you for your talent and skill with the bag-pipes at Josh’s service . We are forever grateful.

Thank you Ken & Debbie Daly, Jan Glick & Greg Weil and Jim Vizzolini for your extended care and generosity to our families during this difficult time.

Thank you to Nora Wallace of the Santa Barbara News Press and Leah Etling of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal for your heartfelt and respectful prose.

Our many thanks to Kalitta Charters, the Patriot Guard Riders, the American Legion Riders 534, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department, the Solvang Sherriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol for their incredible efforts in getting Josh home safely.

And finally, our gratitude and appreciation to those of you who provided us with meals, cards and love during this most difficult time.

So many people came together donating time and resources. We were nurtured and supported by the outpouring of love, sympathy and respect that helped sustain us through these difficult days. Our continued gratitude to the brave men and women who serve in our United States Military, and to the amazing Green Berets of 7133, Joshua’s team. He loved them all as brothers.

It is an unbelievable community in which we live. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

The family of Staff Sgt. Joshua R. Townsend

 

God bless this valley

I had the distinct honor to serve as pastor to the Townsend family in the recent services for Sgt. Joshua Townsend. It is always a tender privilege to be included in a family’s grief, but in this case it extended beyond them to the grief of the Santa Ynez Valley and a very special community of the United States Army.

I was deeply impressed with how these grieving folks were embraced and loved by so many. To address the 800 or more of you who came to the service at the church, and to ride in that motorcade seeing individuals standing at attention out of respect for Josh and his family, some with hands over their hearts while children waved flags along the route, and at every intersection sheriff’s deputies blocking traffic while saluting this fallen soldier, it was more moving than words can express. Thank you. I want to thank you all for your kind hearts and moving tributes. To the local law enforcement teams, your understanding of what was needed and your willingness to provide it was outstanding!

To my fellow valley residents, you have no idea how much you touched the hearts of some very stoic Green Berets. From Josh’s team to Gen. Repass, the commander of all Special Forces, to Chaplain Rose, with whom I worked closely. To a man they were all overwhelmed with your courtesy, your generosity and your respect. It wasn’t what they’ve come to expect, and that made their time among you all the more impressive.

I would also like to salute the men and women of the local VFW and American Legion, plus the Patriot Riders, for the special honor you each bestowed on this young man and his wife and family. You know the journey far better than most of us, so your presence spoke volumes. Thank you.

And thank you to the Vikings for the amazing gift you gave with the reception you prepared and hosted. Truly the heart of this community was on display at its best. Believe me, it was duly noted.

People often say what a special place the valley is, and at times it comes across as arrogant or proud. Not so this time, for your efforts made this community more than special with a humble heart and a generous outpouring of honor and respect for those who deserved it the most. God bless you all.

Jeff Bridgeman, Pastor

Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church