CLEVELAND - Thousands of Clevelanders and visitors from as far away as Virginia came to see more than 750 Marines showcase their skills, equipment, vehicles and aircraft during Marine Week Cleveland June 11-17.
Some were wowed by the martial arts and military working dog demonstrations, while the vehicles and aircraft seemed to be a big hit with the preteen set.
For Luke Fialkowski, 4, the highlight of his day was playing on the tactical vehicles, "I like tanks," he said smiling. "They are great."
Though it's a rare opportunity to play in tactical vehicles and watch demonstrations, the high point for Alexander Nystrom, 10, a Greater Cleveland Young Marine, was the ability to interact with the Marines. "I think it's really cool the Marines are here. Cleveland is really lucky," he said.
Spending a day playing with military equipment was not only enjoyable for many of the children -- this was also an opportunity to learn about the Corps.
"I think it's great that people who attend the event will have more respect and understanding on what the Marines do for this country," said Rich Croll, a native of Toldeo for more than 25 years.
Though it was Aimme LePelley's first time around military equipment, it didn't stop her from bringing her son to downtown, "It was a great way for the kids to see what the Marines are about besides what they see on TV."
Some took this as an opportunity to thank Marines for their service to the country. Many shed tears at the Ohio Flags of Honor, a tribute to Ohio service members killed during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Others visited the Travelling Vietnam War Memorial Wall to find the names of friends and relatives killed during the Vietnam War.
Seeing all the Marines left Diana Roberts, a resident of Cleveland for more than 54 years, with a "sense of pride for them serving their country," she said.
Nancy Kucharshi agreed. She said she was "honored to call the Marines our own."
For Ohio military veterans, the draw was a chance to see the equipment and vehicles being used by this generation of Marines. They also showed a keen interest in the experiences of this generation of Marines and relived their own military service.
There were some from an older generation who remembered another visit by Marines. In 1959, almost 1,200 Marines invaded Edgewater Park on the shores of Lake Erie during a mock invasion that was part of a yearlong celebration of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
"I was 10 years old when the Marines landed on the beach, and once I saw (them) I wanted to join," said Dale Shriver, a Vietnam veteran.
He said he proudly served in the Marine Corps for two years during the final days of the Vietnam War. While observing the military equipment, Shriver remembered those times -- being around today's Marines made those memories more vivid.
"I plan on being down here every night until they close it down, I never want it to end," he said.
For another Vietnam veteran, Marine Week Cleveland validated his own war-time service.
"You see the dignity, respect and honor the Marines are giving us after 43-years," said Jack J. Palush, a Vietnam War-era Marine. "For us to get respect from the Marines after so many years, it's priceless. There's nothing that could ever replace it," he said teary eyed.
"For us old timers to see how well you guys have carried on the traditions and honor, we know the Corps is in good hands," said Palush.
The military precision of morning and evening colors, the daily ceremonial wreath laying, young Marines eagerly talking about the tools of their trade and their service to country, and the numerous Marine band performances, gave Clevelanders from all walks of life something to see during Marine Week Cleveland.