North County Times | May 16, 2009

City holds eighth annual Operation Appreciation

Navy seamen, from left, Gunners Mate 2nd Class David Wynne, Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Justin Sulberg, Boatswains Mate William Bruner, and Chief Dan Avila relax during Operation Appreciation at the Oceanside Municipal Pier on Saturday. The sailors operated the LCAC, or Landing Craft, Air Cushion, which was on display on the nearby beach. (Photo by Hayne Palmour IV - Staff Photographer)

Military families were treated to lunch and entertainment Saturday on the beach near the Oceanside Municipal Pier as part of the eighth annual Operation Appreciation.

The event, held on Armed Forces Day, was sponsored by the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, the city of Oceanside and the Armed Services YMCA.

The day featured military vehicles, including Humvees and a 5-ton truck, as well as live entertainment, children’s rides and free food for military families, the city’s way of showing its appreciation. While many people enjoyed the music and rides, most seemed interested in the military displays.

Veda Zuniga, 13, and her friends toured a huge Navy hovercraft, which Marines call the Landing Craft, Air Cushion, that landed on the beach that morning. The vehicle can carry up to 60 tons of equipment across sea or land.

After climbing down from the cockpit, Zuniga said she enjoyed the chance to see the military vehicles up close. Not only is her brother going to Marines Corps boot camp this summer, she said, but she is considering a future career in the military.

“This is pretty cool,” she said. “I am really excited.”

Germany Ruffin, a Navy seaman, said he enjoyed educating people about the landing craft, which he has worked on for more than two years.

“You get to show what you do for a living,” he said. “I really appreciate all the people who came out.”

Sam Leammon, a Marine corporal who volunteers at Camp Pendleton’s Mechanized Command Museum, spent the day answering questions about the self-propelled howitzer, which was used from Vietnam through Desert Storm. Â

As children climbed all over the howitzer, he said displaying vehicles is a great way to teach people about military history.

“People like this stuff, because they don’t see it every day,” he said.

Rick Findon of Chicago said seeing the howitzer and the military vehicles brought back memories from when he served in the Navy in 1972.

He said he thinks this type of event is important.

“It’s good for the community around here to see these things,” he said.

Jim Wherry, a Marine sergeant, and his son Nathan took time to explore the explosive ordnance disposal robots on display.

Although Wherry hasn’t worked with the unit, he said, the event gives him the chance to show his 6-year-old son what it means to be a Marine.

“It’s good to be able to show what I do,” he said. “It’s hard to do that on a normal day.”

Ruben Castaneda of West Covina said he just happened to be in Oceanside for the event.

He said he was impressed by the information available on health benefits for military families. Although he is not in the military, he picked up information for his family members who are.

“It’s always good to take advantage of that opportunity,” he said.

-By Shannon Wingard