A highlight of our annual OC Veterans Day Dinner is presenting local awardees for the Veterans of the Year honor. Veterans chosen for this honor had exemplary service during their military career, and they continue serving their communities with their jobs and volunteer services. Congratulations to Elizabeth VanBenschoten Buckley and Charles E. Johnson, the 2022 Veterans of the Year.

Here is a bit of information that tells you why these veterans were chosen.

Elizabeth VanBenschoten Buckley,  Captain Ret. in the United States Air Force from 1960 through 1968

Elizabeth VanBenschoten was sworn into the US Air Force in July 1960, by her father, Elmer S. VanBenschoten, Col. US Army Ret.  She was called to active duty on Sep. 3, 1960, as a 2nd Lieutenant.  Following indoctrination at Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, she was assigned to US Air Force Hospital at Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia as Officer in Charge of the Laboratory.  She was transferred to US Air Force Hospital at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in New York in the same capacity.

She was separated from service on June 30, 1968, as a Captain.  Prior to separation, she married William A. Buckley, Lieutenant Colonel US Air Force Ret. They moved to Tustin in August 1968.

Libby continues to be active in her community. She is a member of the Women’s Club and is an active member of the Tustin American Legion 227, where she frequently champions female causes.

Charles E. Johnson, Sergeant Major Ret. in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 through 1974

On July 3, 1937, Charles was born in a farmhouse outside of Fullerton, Nebraska. As a teenager he worked with livestock and chickens.

July 1, 1954, Charles walked by the post office and saw the Marine Corps poster.  He mailed in the post card and shortly after at the age of seventeen he was on his way to San Diego, CA to boot camp.

Charles was stationed at 29 Palms, Camp Pendleton, and then aboard a ship for 55 days during the Cuban missile crisis. Followed by a promotion to meritorious Gunnery Sergeant, he was then sent to Vietnam for his first tour. He was then promoted again and assigned as 1st Sergeant to Sea School in Vietnam, then 1st MAW-SGT 533 Sergeant Major at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Charles was last stationed to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro as Sergeant Major HAMS 37 and retired in February 1974.

Upon retiring, Charles then continued his civic service with the United States Postal Service for 23 years as a janitor, mail carrier, and then supervisor.

He has lived in Tustin since 1974, and has been an active member of the community. Charles has served as a member of the Santa Ana Elks Lodge 794. And he spends a significant amount of his time supporting veterans through the Tustin American Legion Post 227. He led the effort to build the formal Color Guard for the post. He has served as the Sergeant of Arms for 16 years and in that role oversees the POW and MIA recognition, secures the post facility, and manages communication during the meetings.

Thank you, Elizabeth and Charles, for serving our country and our Orange County community!