BARSTOW, Calif. - Not a seat was empty in the conference center as Master Sgt. Matt Blais, Master Sgt. Frank Omarah, and Cpl. Michael Templeton, MCLB Barstow Marines who have recently returned from deployments, took center stage.
The Marines each gave a speech about their individual missions and accomplishments overseas before they were presented gifts from local organizations.
Of the local organizations were the Quilts of Valor, an organization made up of volunteer quilters who make quilts for service members all over the world, explained Nancy Hiles, organizer and quilter with the Quilts of Valor.
“A lot of the service members don’t think what they do is a big deal and that they’re just doing their jobs,” explained Hiles. “However, for us sleeping safe in our beds each night, what they do is a huge deal. We can’t do what they do … so we do what we can do to say thank you.”
“It’s like a hug from home,” added Hiles.
After the women with the Quilts of Valor presented their quilts to each service member and thanked them, the High Desert Marines presented the returning service members with assault backpacks filled with various patriotic and motivational Marine Corps items.
The High Desert Marines are a group of Marine veterans who support all service members, active or retired, said Tim Hille, the commander of the High Desert Marines.
Hille, who served in the Marine Corps from 1959 until 1963, explained that the majority of their members are Vietnam veterans.
“The Vietnam era was terrible … the way service members were treated when they returned home was horrible,” Hille explained. “We want to make sure that kind of treatment never happens again.”
Hille further explained that the organization will do whatever possible to show the troops the recognition they deserve when they return home from deployments.
“It’s important to give them the welcome back that wasn’t given to the Vietnam veterans,” Hille said.
This is the second time the Marine veterans have supported the event and will continue to support the troops in any way possible, explained the West Islip, N.Y., native.
Hille explained that he loves to see the Barstow crowd coming out to support the troops.
“My favorite part after listening to the Marines’ speeches about their accomplishments overseas, is watching everyone stand for the Marines to shake their hands,” he added. “It’s great to see them recognized.”
Omarah, base inspector here, who recently returned from Kabul, Afghanistan, is thankful for the recognition. He added that its 100 percent different today than it was for the Vietnam veterans.
Omarah spent six months in Afghanistan with the task force for business and stability operations. He explained deployments can be tough without the simplicities and freedom of being in America. However, deploying is something Marines do and mission accomplishment always comes first.
The Auburn, N.Y., native, further explained he hopes that events like this motivate other Marines to want to deploy and stay in the Marine Corps.
Omarah added that every unit should have ceremonies for their returning service members.
“Things like this are essential,” he said. “It’s the epitome of taking care of Marines.”
The Welcome Home Heroes ceremony is something that should continue throughout the military, Omarah explained. Every service member deserves recognition after coming home from a forward deployed environment.
After the Marines were presented their gifts, they received a round of applause for their sacrifices from fellow service members, MCLB Barstow personnel, and local organizations and sponsors who came to show support.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that the days you put your life on the line means something to the fellow Americans back home,” concluded Omarah.