OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Known as the Dark Horse Battalion, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was recognized during the Honor Bowl, one of the premier high school football exhibitions here, Sept. 6 and 7.
The two-day event featured several of the best football teams in the state, a static display by the Marines, a skydiving demonstration and a presentation to the Gold Star families of the battalion.
The Marines set up the static display to answer questions during and after the games. Questions varied in topic including the types of weapon systems the Marines use to the food they eat and the physical training they endure.
In addition, two Humvees were brought to the high school and servicemembers displayed the gear they wear when in a deployed environment.
It was an opportunity for the Marines to work with the local community one on one.
Students could be seen trying on flak jackets and assault packs. One girl winced at the weight of the jacket, while another boy performed pushups with the gear. During one occasion, several children gathered and listened to a corpsman explain all the equipment in his medical kit.
“I think it’s a great event,” said Sgt. Ronald Caudle, the platoon sergeant with communications platoon. “The Marines got to interact face to face with the youth which is something we do not get to do often. It lets us know we have the support of our local community.”
It also was a chance for the servicemembers to show their support. They helped with setting up booths, security, checking tickets and cleanup.
“It’s important because the Marines are letting the community know we are here to help,” Caudle said. “It’s also a great chance to show our support to the local youth.”
The battalion was also highlighted before the Saturday night game. During the opening ceremonies, Lance Cpl. Jason Hallett and Lance Cpl. Isaac Blunt, both wounded warriors with Wounded Warrior Battalion West, escorted a Marine Color Guard during the national anthem.
In addition, Gold Star family members, many from 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, were escorted to the center of the field for the coin toss.
Gold Star lapel buttons are distributed to the immediate family of fallen servicemembers by the Department of Defense.
“When I saw my sons’ friends being wounded and killed, I wanted to do something to say thank you to them,” said Mark Soto, the founder and executive director of the Honor Group, a nonprofit organization that started the event three years ago. “A lot of the Gold Star parents are friends of mine.”
Sgt. Alfredo Torres, the line staff noncommissioned officer in charge with Weapons and Field Training Battalion, and an escort for one of the family members, said tonight he came out to honor all the wounded warriors and Gold Star families. He added being able to escort a Gold Star family was amazing, and he was honored to do it.
The message of honoring the servicemembers and their families resonated with Torres who deployed three times and served almost six years with the battalion.
“We are not forgetting their sons,” Torres said. “We still think of them every day and talk about them all the time. They will never be forgotten and they are with us every day.”
When the final whistle blew and the games finished, Marines helped escort people out and began tearing down the tents. Many attendants took their time to shake their hands and thank them for their service.
“I would like the Marines to leave with a sense that they are being supported, loved and honored,” Soto said. “While I hope everyone else takes away a new sense of pride and patriotism.”