News: Local citizens support Marines, host homecoming parade
Story by Cpl. Ned Johnson
SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. – The generally quiet streets of San Clemente erupted with thunderous applause as more than 1,000 Marines and sailors, past and present, began marching toward the ocean.
The Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment and citizens of San Clemente celebrated both the homecoming of the battalion and Flag Day with a parade through downtown, June 14.
Women held signs that said “welcome home,” while children waived flags and proud parents cried tears of joy for the warriors who recently returned from a 7-month deployment to Helmand province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Today’s parade was a little different than most. Vietnam veterans marched in the parade alongside the current Marines of 2nd Bn., 4th Marines.
“One of the guys next to me told me that today was the best day of his life since returning from Vietnam,” said Frank Valdez, a Vietnam vet and former president of the 2nd Bn., 4th Marine Regiment Association.
The 1st Marine Division Band, clad in their dress blue uniforms, led the parade with classic marching tunes, to include Phillip Sousa classics.
“We are honored to have the 1st Marine Division Band in San Clemente today,” said Wayne Eggleston, executive director of The Heritage of San Clemente Foundation. “They were absolutely terrific during the parade.”
Following the parade, 2nd Bn., 4th Marine Regiment’s Association held a ceremony at Semper Fi Park in conjunction with the city.
The ceremony unveiled a plaque honoring 2nd Bn., 4th Marines, and awarded members of the battalion for their outstanding leadership.
City leaders and veterans were impressed by the response and support given by the citizens of San Clemente.
“It was really overwhelming,” Eggleston said. “I didn’t expect thousands of people to be on the street. It was just filled, block after block, and also with school children waving American flags.”
The Marines were equally as impacted by the excitement of the day’s activities.
“As a battalion commander and a Marine, I have never attended anything like a welcome home parade,” said Lt. Col. Bill Vivian, battalion commander of 2nd Bn., 4th Marines. “I’m personally touched and it shows the great relationship we have with this city.
As for the men of the battalion, I tell them that I am very proud of how they performed in Afghanistan, but now they can see that what I am telling them is true because they had a lot of people welcoming them home today.”
When taps played to honor those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, the faces of the veterans, both Vietnam and Afghanistan, showed their pride and gratitude for the support of the local citizens.
As the last note sounded from the band, waves crashed upon the shores of a grateful nation as waves of emotion poured across the Marines.
“I thought it was going to be easy,” said Vivian, a native of Omaha, Nebraska. “But it was emotional because everyone from older citizens to schoolchildren were out there waving the American flag and it was for us.
“It was indescribable.”