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Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, commander of 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, accompanied by his wife Filomena, acts as a military marshal 143rd Annual Italian Heritage Parade, Oct. 9, 2011. Marines and sailors with the expeditionary force traveled to San Francisco aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard to participate in Fleet Week to showcase the Navy and Marine Corps’ amphibious nature, readiness and ability to respond to disasters.

Photo by Sgt. Michael Cifuentes

Marines march through San Francisco in Italian Heritage Parade

11 Oct 2011 | Lance Cpl. Mark Garcia

Marines serving with I Marine Expeditionary Force strutted through North Beach, San Francisco, during the 143rd Annual Italian Heritage Parade, Oct. 9.

During a week where Marines have showcased their capabilities to provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, the parade gave Marines a chance to introduce themselves to the city of San Francisco.

“It’s important that we as Marines interact and mingle with the people from San Francisco just so we can show them that we’re happy to be here and that we are enjoying our stay,” said Sgt. Maj. Alberto Ruiz, the battalion sergeant major for 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

Ruiz noted the residents of San Francisco have welcomed Marines during Fleet Week with open arms, which makes participating in the parade enjoyable for everyone.

“We’ve been having a great time so far since we arrived here in San Francisco for Fleet Week and the people of San Francisco have received us with complete open arms,” Ruiz said. “It’s been an incredible stay here, and we look forward to next year.”

Allison Pheatt, a schoolteacher in San Francisco, said parades like the Italian Heritage Parade help give the American public an opportunity to thank service members.

“I think it’s very important the Marines are seen by the American people because we can tell them thank you,” Pheatt said. “It also puts a face to what’s going on overseas. It makes it more real so we can understand what’s going on, and we can be appreciative of the people in the armed forces.”

The military grand marshal of the parade was Vice Adm. Gerald R. Beaman, commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, and the military marshal of the parade Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, commanding general of 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

“This parade is important so that people can recognize the service members and notice what they are doing for America and be able to show their appreciation,” said Joey Pena, a young boy who watched the parade.