OCEANSIDE — Oceanside residents thanked troops for their service at the annual Operation Appreciation event at Oceanside Pier on Armed Forces Day, May 21.
The daylong celebration, sponsored by the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, provided a hot picnic lunch, live entertainment and a carnival area of games and kiddy rides for families to enjoy. All activities were free for active duty military and their families and at a minimal cost for residents. About 4,000 folks attended the celebration.
There was a giant inflatable slide, flying elephant ride, climbing wall and whirling “Round-About” ride for kids to enjoy.
On the beach a dozen military vehicles were on display from the Marine Corps’ Mechanized Museum. Young and old climbed aboard armed Humvees and the giant L-Cat landing catamaran for a hands-on look.
“It’s so nice to see them do something for military families,” Jolynn Kemp, of Camp Pendleton, said.
Many of the Camp Pendleton troops were home and able to enjoy the celebration with their families.
“The troops are back, you can see it in their faces,” Liz Rhea, event volunteer, said. “It’s wonderful. It makes it worth it.”
Families whose spouses were deployed enjoyed the day with fellow military families.
“We learn to be a family,” Mayira Frias, of Camp Pendleton, said. “There is bonding (between children) when both their daddies are gone.”
This is the tenth year Operation Appreciation has been held. The event began in 2002 as a way to give back and say thank you to troops.
Each year the event evolves, David Nydegger, CEO of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, said. Yearly planning starts in October to organize the event, iron out details, and make the day better than last year’s celebration.
“The key is volunteers,” Nydegger said. Each year about 100 volunteers pitch in and help things run smooth.