Service above self

CSEA veterans pass down service-oriented mindset to children


by Shannon Carr, scarr@csea.com

The United States is home to nearly 18 million veterans, with the highest number (1.54 million) residing in California. Each of these brave men and women have a story to tell about their experience and service to their country.

On Veterans Day, America turns its attention to the service of these heroes with parades, ceremonies and memorials, but this recognition is something that should continue on a daily basis throughout the year.

Conference 2019

One way that CSEA pays tribute to military families is by recognizing their service at the union’s Annual Conference. Nearly 40 children and relatives of classified employees who served or are still active in the military were featured in a daily slideshow at the 93rd Annual Conference. The presentation helped remind the 1,600 delegates in attendance of the importance of valuing service above self. Each morning, a new slideshow paid tribute to a different branch of the military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy. The slides featured a photo of each service person along with the name of their related CSEA member.

“These tributes are traditions steeped in the organization’s history during conference as a small token of appreciation for what those in the military do and have done every day to afford us with the human rights and protection that this country has to offer,” said Association President Ben Valdepeña.

Jeremy Fisher was one of the military personnel displayed on the screen during the Marines tribute that highlighted 10 different individuals. Fisher is the son of Jonathan Fisher, second vice president of Delta Valley Chapter 821 and a painter for 17 years at Stockton Unified School District.

In many ways, being a part of the military, known for its brother and sisterhood, is similar to the core values of CSEA.

Jonathan Fisher

“Just like the military, they all are a family in good and bad, and stick together,” Jonathan Fisher said. “No man is left behind and they have your back all the time. Both union and military have produced great leaders and with those leaders and training we are able to bring in more great leaders to be able to accomplish goals for all.”

Jeremy Fisher, Sergeant/E-5 with his eight years of active duty service from 2006 to 2014, emphasized that just like CSEA, in the Corps that “brotherhood” has a true meaning.

“You form a bond and trust with those around you,” he said. “Race, ethnicity, cultural religion are overlooked when you have uniformity in the service uniform.”

He was a part of two tours in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. Jeremy Fisher said that America seemed different during that time.

“The wars were a big deal in 2006, and it seemed like (the country) yearned for the details daily of what was going on overseas,” he said. “The people were proud to be American, and knew what the flag meant and stood for.”

There was also a high level of respect and recognition for those who served, as people would often tip their hats to those in the service.

Although Jeremy Fisher has lived far away from his dad for many years, the sense of service runs deep in the family’s blood. He said it has always been interesting to hear stories about the union pushing for raises, or sanctioned events.

“It’s pretty interesting to see a group of co-workers come together and support one another for a common goal of the co-worker,” he said.

Gilbert Bonilla III, who served in the Navy for four years from 2007 to 2011, is also following in his father’s footsteps of working beyond himself.

Gilbert Bonilla III

The son of Gilbert Bonilla Jr., president of Long Beach Chapter 2 and a computer support technician with Long Beach Unified School District, Bonilla III was Petty Officer 3rd Class during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I knew my father served in the Air Force, and that most likely influenced me a little,” Bonilla III said. “I was always interested in the military and history. I joined because I felt it was the natural thing to do for an able-bodied citizen.”

Bonilla Jr. served in the Air Force as an E1 to E4 technical aircraft maintenance specialist for four years of active duty and two years of inactive duty from 1982 to 1986.

They both agree that being in the service instilled integral values of honor, respect, discipline, leadership and how to work with people of different backgrounds.

“I received a lot of valuable training that helped me through many aspects of my life throughout my lifetime,” Bonilla Jr. said.

Bonilla III has seen the influence it has instilled in his father’s life, in addition to being a CSEA member since 1994.

Bonilla's

“My father has a keen interest in organization and getting a group of people to work together for a common goal,” Bonilla III said. “These are fundamentals he may have learned in his time in the Air Force, and it is a characteristic of his that I remember during his time as a baseball coach.”

While the principles are the same, the way to achieve these goals is dependent on the group.

“Whether it’s in the military or coaching a bunch of children trying to learn how to play a sport or interacting with working professionals, (he has a way of) bringing people together to efficiently achieve a common goal and it’s never an easy thing to accomplish,” Bonilla III said.

Bonilla III, Bonilla Jr. and Jeremy Fisher are just a few people among the millions who have dedicated their lives to this country, and Veterans Day holds a special meaning to them as well, including remembering those friends they have made and lost.

“It is a day for veterans to celebrate the accomplishments of their own personal service and that of their comrades, and to celebrate the history of the small percentage of American citizens who defended the Constitution of the United States of America,” Bonilla III said. “Millions of men and women have served in our military, but it is still a small society. America is safe from foreign invasion because men and women have volunteered to protect us.”



Related Resources


There are many ways to celebrate and share the importance of Veterans Day with your friends, colleagues and students at your school site. Below are links to websites with information and ideas about how to recognize veterans for their service to our country.


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