YUMA, Ariz. - A colors ceremony was held at the station parade deck at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Nov. 5, to honor the local veterans of Yuma, Ariz., and the national ensign.
The ceremony was coordinated, hosted and led specifically by non-commissioned officers of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, as a show of appreciation and admiration leading into the Veteran's Day weekend. This marked the first time a colors ceremony has been led by NCO’s aboard MCAS Yuma.
“The 3rd MAW [Marine Aircraft Wing] general has come up with the sell – the Committed and Engaged Leadership program. Each month, the MAW holds a colors ceremony in Miramar,” said Sgt. John Clark, a heavy equipment operator with MWSS-371 and lead coordinator for the ceremony. “We went and observed the September 11th colors ceremony this year. After coming back from Miramar, we got the go ahead from MAG-13 [Marine Aircraft Group 13] and our unit to conduct one here in Yuma.”
Evening colors is one of the many traditions in the Corps’ history that pays homage to service members who have come before us. The ceremony is performed as the sun sets on Marine Corps installations around the world, and is meant to serve as a reminder of the predecessors’ legacy.
What set this ceremony apart was the active leadership amongst the NCO’s of MWSS-371 to achieve the impressive spectacle. Weeks of hard work and preparation went into the planning and execution of the ceremony.
“It’s just a self-acknowledgement that you can do the work that you put your mind to,” said Clark. “More of a self-reminder that you are capable of not only leading Marines but also putting on a higher magnitude event.”
During the ceremony, guests of honor included the mayor of Yuma, Ariz., Alan L. Krieger; 3rd MAW Commanding General Maj. Gen. Steven W. Busby; MCAS Yuma Commanding Officer Col. Robert C. Kuckuk, and Yuma chapters of veteran organizations like the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Scores of friends and families were also in attendance with Marines and sailors from resident squadrons. Hundreds filed into seats set up around the flagpole to honor our past service members and the present generation of brothers and sisters in the armed forces.
The importance was not lost on any of the participants.
“It is our veterans that we look up to because they’ve been out there – they’ve done the hard stuff, went to combat. Some gave their life for it. We take their step, we take their place. We walk in their footsteps,” said Sgt. Mandy M. Haskell, a supply warehouse clerk with MWSS-371. “They live to tell the story, they have that experience to say, ‘Hey, I did this and I did that and this is what I learned from it,’ so they can teach us.”
The show of respect for the leaders of yesterday by the leaders of today was recognized by command.
“Having an NCO-run colors ceremony is a great part of the Committed and Engaged Leadership program,” said Busby.
The program is about a hands-on approach to mentoring the next generation of Marines by granting them more responsibility to perform.
“I think junior Marines see it on a day to day basis, or should see it on a day to day,” said Clark.
“We don’t have lance corporals and below doing the working party or in the platoon,” added Haskell. “They see us, their leaders out there, presenting it – actually putting up this program, actually putting up the chairs, setting stuff up and doing something. So then they say, ‘Oh, I want to be like that.’”
Setting the example, taking initiative, and being loyal to traditions and history all came together at the parade deck on Tuesday in honor of those who cultivated those same values way back when.
As the sun set over the horizon of MCAS Yuma, everyone was reminded of what the upcoming weekend is meant to represent. It is not simply a day off of work; it is not a day to simply lounge at the creek. Veteran’s Day is a time to remember those who have come before us, honor the path they paved and preserve the history that will lead us into the future.