TORRANCE, Calif. — Soldiers, leaders, staff and spouses from the National Training Center/Fort Irwin had a prominent presence at the 60th annual Armed Forces Day weekend celebration in Torrance. The events took place from May 17 – 19 and the parade draws in about 60,000 people as the nation’s longest-running military parade sponsored by any city. All branches of the military were represented over the weekend — the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
On Friday, guests enjoyed a free concert by the Navy band, then more than three dozen of NTC Soldiers ran in the Louis Zampernini 5K Freedom run on Saturday, including NTC’s Commander, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater. General Jeffery Broadwater, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Lowe and CSM Robert Edwards. Fort Irwin’s group finished with a time of 30:26. The winner of the race completed it in 15 minutes out of hundreds of participants.
Sgt. 1st Class Angel Nunez helped organize Fort Irwin’s participation in the weekend events and said he had a little inspiration during the run. “In the run, my motivation was a kid about 5 to 6 years old,” he said. “He stuck with us almost the entire the run, he just didn’t want to give up.”
The events honor and thank the men and women of the Armed Forces for their sacrifices and, after the run, city leaders showed their appreciation Saturday with a luncheon, parade and banquet, where Fort Irwin leaders and spouses were present. Broadwater and his wife, Alicia, rode in the parade, representing NTC. Fort Irwin soldiers led the way, kicking off the parade with the joint color guard. The 11th ACR had its horse detachment, dismounted platoon and military tanks in Saturday’s parade. The vehicles, included an M1A1 Abrams Tank, M3 Half-Track, M2A2 Bradley, M109 Howitzer (Paladin), M997A2 Ambulance, M88A2 Hercules, RG-33 Cat II, and M992 Ammunition Support Vehicle.
Five-hundred new service members were sworn in to military during a group ceremony for all branches during the parade.
Song Tran and his wife live in Torrance and brought their 10- and 8-year old sons out to the parade for their first time. He said he doesn’t have a connection to the military but, “I think it’s very useful for kids to know military history.”
Oscar Berman served during the Korean War and he thinks it’s important to try to attend the Torrance parade every year.
“It’s important to see these veterans from all over, from different wars, from different walks of life,” Berman said. “It’s great to be an American.”
Other notable participants of the parade included city councilmembers, congress members Maxine Waters and Ted Lieu, World War II veterans, The Bob Hope USO and high school marching bands, as military jets flew overhead throughout the parade. The parade grand marshal was Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander, Navy Region Southwest. The honorary Grand Marshall was actor, Emilio Rivera, of the Mayans MC and Sons of Anarchy.
On each day, there was also a military exhibit static display, which showed military vehicles, aircrafts and support equipment. Fort Irwin’s DPW had the largest display outside of the military vehicles, which includes animals native to the desert (owls, tarantulas, butterflies, etc.), artifacts, air quality devices, etc. Their environmental display is an integral part of the weekend. Muhammad Bari is the Director of Public Works in Fort Irwin and has been attending the weekend events for 21 years.
“Due to our public awareness program and participation, we have shown the Army’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” Bari said.
The weekend wrapped up with a banquet and presentation by the keynote speaker (and parade grand marshal) Bolivar.
Each year, the city identifies one branch of the as the “honored service” of the Armed Forces Day Celebration and a high-ranking member of the honored service is invited to serve as Grand Marshal. The Navy was honored during this year’s celebration. The Army was the honored host last year, in 2018.
Former Torrance mayor, Albert Isen, said the parade was meant to, “Increase public respect and understanding for military service and promote civic-military relationships.”