Blue skies and temperature in the 70’s meant T-shirts and shorts for several hundred Big Bear Lake residents and visitors who greeted several dozen parade units and VIP’s in antique cars as they celebrated the San Bernardino mountain lake community’s 60th edition of its Old Miners Day Parade.
As in past years, Fort Irwin was represented well by a detachment of Soldiers who waved to the crowd from a M1151 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and a M1089 LMTV Wrecker. Meanwhile, National Training Center’s protocol officer Maj. Demetrius Green greeted the crowds from the front seat of a World War II vintage Jeep.
Rocky McAllister, the parade’s military liaison, said this year’s parade was special in that it also honored other uniformed protectors, including the parade’s grand marshal, San Bernardino County Deputy Sheriff Alex Collins. Collins was severely wounded by a Los Angeles murder suspect and fugitive, who hid in Big Bear after slayings that made the national headlines in February.
McAllister said the Big Bear Lake community has always been a strong supporter of the military. As the parade committee’s liaison for the military participants, McAllister learned only on the morning of the parade that a color guard from the Barstow Marine Logistics Base had showed up to participate. When he took them out to a local restaurant and tried to pay for their breakfast afterwards, he learned that another diner had already quietly paid their bill.
“That’s how strong this community supports the military,” McAllister said.
Green commented that the community has many residents, who have served in the military or in law enforcement.
“The relationship between the Big Bear community and Fort Irwin should be cultivated at every opportunity, as it enhances our ability to accomplish our daily mission on behalf of all Americans,” Green said.
Private German Arreola of the 916th Support Brigade, who gave up his HMMVW turret gunner seat to Big Bear Lake’s resident “Sarge” (retired Sgt. 1st Class George L. Miskell), said he never got to relieve Sarge from the best seat in the parade.
“It was an amazing experience, how people kept thanking you for serving our country,” Arreola said.
Arreola, who enlisted in the Army from Killeen, Texas, also enjoyed the change of environment from Fort Irwin.
“I liked the big trees and grass, just like you see in the movies,” Arreola said.