News: Soldiers bring holiday cheer to Veterans Home of California – Barstow
Story by Sgt. Zachary Gardner
BARSTOW, Calif. -- The holidays are the happiest time of the year for most people and a very difficult for others. This is why it is important for soldiers to go the extra mile and help those in need during the holiday season, even if that extra mile turns into a three mile uphill road march.
More than 225 soldiers from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment paraded through Barstow for the 15th Annual Veterans Home Memorial March to bring holiday cheer to the Veterans Home of California - Barstow, Dec. 14.
“They really make us feel good about ourselves,” said DeVaughn Morton, a Navy veteran and a resident of the Veterans Home of California - Barstow.
“It’s especially nice this time of year because people can get depressed,” said Morton. “This event really helps to build us up.”
Following the march, Col. Antonio A. Aguto Jr., commander of the 11th ACR, and Calvin E. Phillips, president of the National Training Center – High Desert chapter of the Association of the United States Army, presented the residents of the Veterans Home of California – Barstow with more than $2,500 in donations. The 11th ACR also presented the veterans with a giant holiday card, signed by all of the Soldiers who participated in the march as part of the ceremony.
“Over the years Fort Irwin, especially the 11th ACR, has been very good to this home,” said Denise Phillips, Standards Compliance Coordinator for the Veterans Home of California – Barstow.
The first march was held in 1997 to commemorate the opening of the home and it was a two day journey through the desert from Fort Irwin to Barstow. Soldiers made the 38 mile trek every year until 2003 when the 11th ACR had to change the march to a one day event because of the time constraints placed on units deploying to Iraq.
“We would have understood if they would have stopped doing the march back in 2003, but they just wouldn’t hear of it,” said Phillips.
Since its start, the march has become a favorite for the Veterans Home of California – Barstow, and it is their second largest ceremony after Veterans Day. The residents of the home and soldiers look forward to the event every year. It is a way for them to compare notes and bond over their experiences serving in the armed forces.
“They are so young to have done so much,” said Morton. “Some of these guys have deployed two, three times and they just look so young.”
Even though soldiers marching through the streets was not the same as caroling, the 15th Annual Veterans Home Memorial March had just as big of an impact on the residents of the Veterans Home of California – Barstow. It was an uplifting event that allowed the troopers from the 11th ACR to help and honor those who served first.