Veterans Day is a time to honor those who have served our country and commemorate their sacrifices. An exhibit making a stop in Palm Desert this week does just that while also serving as a way for a daughter to honor her father.
Candie Blankman will present her free-to-the-public Veterans Day exhibit in the Hope Center at Hope Lutheran Church on Portola in Palm Desert. The exhibit will be open on Friday from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.
Blankman’s exhibit is a tribute to her father, TSgt. Kenneth E. Davis, a World War II prisoner of war who passed away in 2006. He survived the Bataan Death March, two concentration camps in the Philippine Islands, a Hellship to Japan, and forced labor in a Japanese copper mine. VFW Post 3699 Commander Leonard Abramowitz will be at the exhibit, as well as members of posts 3699 and 1534. Poppies will be sold, and refreshments will be served.
“The exhibit helps people remember the enormous sacrifice many men and women have given and continue to give so that we can enjoy our freedom,” Blankman said. “It helps people experience how personal war is — not just numbers and facts and figures — but real people who have families and friends.
“Some survived and returned, but hundreds of thousands did not.”
Blankman, a Los Angeles resident, has presented the exhibit throughout Southern California, Minnesota, and Illinois. It features paintings, drawings, primary documents, photographs, and maps of her father’s story.
In 2010, she traveled to all the places her father was held prisoner. In 2016, she returned to Japan at the invitation of Mitsubishi Materials, the owner of the copper mine during the war, to see the unveiling of a plaque at the mine where her father was held prisoner. By placing the plaque, Mitsubishi acknowledged for the first time that Allied prisoners of war were forced to labor in the mine.
“When I was in high school, I read in the newspaper about my father being a WWII prisoner of war,” Blankman recalled. “He had never talked about it at home. When I was teacher teaching American History, I invited my father to come and tell his story to the high school history classes. I stood in the back of the room weeping. I had never heard these stories myself. I began interviewing him every time I visited and writing his story down.”
Veterans Day is especially important to Blankman because she knows the cost of freedom and that it takes every branch of service at every level and every civilian’s support to protect that freedom. Her exhibit has three goals: never forgetting the cost of freedom, inspiring people to want to know their family stories, and teaching people how to thank a veteran.
“I tell everyone that you do not have to agree with the war or like the president, but you can still thank the men and women who serve,” she said. “I teach adults and children to walk up to any veteran they see and reach out their hand and firmly shake the hand of the veteran and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ It takes 30 seconds but means so much.”
More information: The church is located at 45900 Portola Ave. in Palm Desert. Blankman’s book may be purchased here.