CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
For 13 months, citizens of the Dana Point 5th Marines Support group sent endless care packages to Iraq for the Marines of 5th Marine Regiment.
To show their appreciation, the 5th Marines welcomed members of the group and other organizations to Camp Pendleton to show them a slice of the Marine Corps life.
“We opened the camp up to show them what it is we do on a daily basis,” said Capt. J. J. Fernandez De Castro, 37, the Headquarters Company commanding officer and family readiness officer for 5th Marines, who is from Miami. “We try to do this once or twice a year to give them a better understanding of what it is we do here and to show them how much we appreciate their support.”
The visitors were split up into three groups after being briefed by Maj. Kelly C. Ramshur, 39, the air officer for 5th Marines, who is from Merritt Island, Fla., and was in charge of the communications and control operations for the open house.
“Most of these people are from Dana Point, which is a city that adopted 5th Marines to support us both here and on deployments,” said Ramshur.
After the briefing, each group was led to different exhibits, such as an introduction to the M-4 carbine rifle, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and a tour of the barracks, to name a few.
“This is an opportunity to invite these people out so they can see up close who it is they are supporting and what it is we do,” said Sgt. Maj. Robert D. Thielen, 48, the sergeant major for 5th Marines. “The more we let them know about us, the better they understand what we are doing.”
Some of the visitors were no strangers to the Marine Corps or Camp Pendleton, but they still loved coming on base to see the Marines they have been supporting.
“It is really good to see what the Marines are doing today like MCMAP and the shooting ranges,” said Harry Mixer, who served in the Marine Corps from July 1953 to July 1983 and retired a master gunnery sergeant.
As the day wound down, everyone gathered at the 5th Marines Memorial Garden to say thank you to those who had served and those who gave their lives in service.
“These people have had a tremendous impact on 5th Marines,” said Thielen, who is from Richmond, Minn. “They helped us raise $60,000 for the memorial garden, and they have provided us with general support while we are both deployed and here at home.”
Marines were always close at hand to assist anybody who needed help, to answer any question or to just listen, as they talked about how things were back when the visitors served.
“I am from a small town and I love that whenever we do things like this, it creates that environment,” said Thielen. “That is why when we get an opportunity to do things like this, I am all about it.”
The crowd of about 50 people also watched a short presentation of Marines wearing different uniforms from throughout the Marine Corps’ history. Shortly after, the crowd observed a moment of silence for all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“We enjoyed seeing the barracks where the Marines live and shooting on the rifle range” said Joseph DeShields, who is the committee chairman for the Dana Point Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Everything today was just wonderful; the treatment we have received from every Marine has been great.”