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Joe Whiten ’56 Named Veteran of the Year

Joe Whiten

Joe Whiten in one of his favorite spots

After graduating from ISTC, Joe Whiten ’56 went on to spend 18 years in the Army on active duty and reserve assignments. In that time, he said he developed a respect for the military that, years later, led him to organize an annual golf outing to benefit veterans near his home in El Dorado Hills, California.

In just two years, the Serrano Salute to Valor has raised $52,000 to provide veterans with services including funding for college, service dogs, hospice care, counseling, and scholarships for their children. According to Joe, the event’s golf portion has become secondary. The tournament’s extra touches—musical performances, a flyover by World War II fighter planes, and military equipment displays, to name a few—draw the most support.

Joe previously worked as a research chemist, and at age 82, he continues to work in chemical sales and sales management. He enjoys traveling with his wife, Marilyn, to historic landmarks across the country.

For his efforts with the Serrano Salute to Valor, Joe was named El Dorado County’s Veteran of the Year in November. Following is a story written by John Poimiroo for the county’s Mountain Democrat. Photographs were also provided by John Poimiroo.

El Dorado County Veteran of the Year: Joe Whiten

El Dorado Hills resident and US Army Reserve veteran Joe Whiten combined his passions for golf and helping veterans to create the Serrano Salute to Valor Golf Tournament that in the past two years has raised nearly $52,000 for military veterans.

For what he has done to help veterans, Joe Whiten will be named El Dorado County Veteran of the Year today, November 11, at Veterans Day ceremonies being held at the El Dorado County Veterans Monument in Placerville (360 Fair Lane) at 11:00 a.m.

After Whiten and other Serrano Country Club members participated in a benefit golf tournament for the Armed Forces Foundation, he turned to others riding back with him to El Dorado County and said, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea to take this to Serrano?”

Subsequently, Whiten and five other Serrano Country Club members put together Serrano Salute to Valor (SSV) which raised $12,000, in its first year, for the Armed Forces Foundation. However, he wasn’t satisfied, explaining, “The money went back to DC, and we wanted a way to keep it in the county.”

So, Whiten and his committee joined with Friends of the El Dorado County Veterans Monument (EDCVM), a group that had helped SSV with the ceremonial side of the first SSV tournament but which, in addition to establishing the monument grounds, has provided support to local veterans causes for many years.

This past August, SSV generated nearly $40,000 for local veterans causes.

“Joe was on point throughout it all,” said EDCVM President Gary Campbell. “He conceived the tournament and brought together a highly talented and committed group of Serrano club members who with our veterans organized and ran the tournament. It was an extraordinary accomplishment and did more on one day to help El Dorado County veterans than anything before it.”

Whiten’s idea generated $12,000 to help soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines transition to becoming scholars at Folsom Lake College, $11,300 to train Alpha K9 service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress injury, $10,000 to help older vets receive Snowline Hospice care, $1,500 for countywide veterans programs, $3,586 for EDCVM-administered scholarships for El Dorado County veterans’ children, and $1,000 to provide counseling and family assistance to county law enforcement officers who are veterans.

Second Lieutenant Joe Whiten

Joe Whiten as a second lieutenant in the US Army

A retired chemical engineer and sales manager, Whiten was commissioned in the Army Reserve in 1952 following ROTC training and graduation from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He then served in a variety of assignments and duty stations for 18 years as a quartermaster officer, specializing in medical supply and rising to the rank of captain and the position of executive officer of the 40th Armor Support Group. However, increased work, travel, and family responsibilities prevented him from continuing as a reservist.

Whiten left the US Army, but the Army never left him. He wears his US Army ball cap proudly and is deferential to veterans with longer service time or who have experienced more harrowing duty.

White is often kidded as being the soldier among sailors, marines and airmen who play golf with him at Serrano or with whom he serves on the SSV committee. Campbell said Joe Whiten “epitomizes the traits of what the US Army looks for in its officers: character, presence, intellect, leadership, development, and achievement.″

“This last tournament required all of those traits,” Campbell explained. “Quite frankly, it was such a masterful success and so completely well-led, that all of us were exhausted.

“Every man and woman on the committee gave their all,” he continued, “and, after it was over, to a man and woman, they said they didn’t think they could do it again. Joe was just as tapped, but he refused to let the veterans down. He re-upped as Salute to Valor chair, and that says a lot about who he is.”

Joe and Marilyn Whiten live in El Dorado Hills. In addition to a round of golf at the Serrano Country Club, they enjoy traveling to places important in American history, but then Joe Whiten just made his own local history as El Dorado County’s Veteran of the Year.