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More than a military celebration

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Babette Bolivar, Navy Region Southwest commander, shakes the hands of newly sworn in members of the U.S. Air Force, May 18, 2019 at the Torrance Armed Forces Day Parade in Torrance, Calif. Rear Admiral Bolivar gave the oath of enlistment during the parade to the members who are part of the delayed entry program awaiting their time to go to basic military training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

Children play in the street before the Torrance Armed Forces Day parade begins on May 18, 2019 in Torrance, Calif. This year's parade was hosted by the U.S. Navy, but featured elements from each branch of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

Members of the delayed entry program raise their right hand to take the oath of enlistment during the Torrance Armed Forces Day Parade, May 18, 2019 in Torrance, Calif. The oath was administered by this year's Grand Master of the parade, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Babette Bolivar, Navy Region Southwest commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

Members from the Space and Missile Systems Center teach children to launch paper rockets at the Torrance Armed Forces Day exhibits on May 19, 2019 in Torrance, Calif. SMC brought this exercise as part of its STEM outreach program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

Member of the Space and Missile Systems Center's global positioning directorate set up a table for children to design their own satellite orbit at the Torrance Armed Forces Day exhibits on May 19, 2019 in Torrance, Calif. The exhibits were set up for the entire weekend of Armed Forces Day to show appreciation for each branch of service and provide STEM outreach. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

Members from the Space and Missile Systems Center teach children about SMC's mission and space at the Torrance Armed Forces Day exhibits on May 19, 2019 in Torrance, Calif. Exhibits were set up for the entirety of the weekend for Armed Forces Day to showcase each branch of service and provide STEM outreach in the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bari Wald)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – “What I saw today, man, is like something out of a movie. You dig?  The love that people had out there for the military, as they should, and even more so, you dig?”

Those sentiments, spoken by the parade Honorary Grand Marshal, actor and Army Veteran, Emilio Rivera, most known for his starring role on FX’s Sons of Anarchy, don’t just speak to a generalized showcase of support by the community, they speak to an undertone often unnoticed but present during this type of event: opportunity.

Every interaction with the local community, is an opportunity for the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles Air Force Base to educate and inspire.  Every interaction with our sister services is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the dependencies between our assets and missions. Most importantly though, the 60th Torrance Armed Forces Day Celebration gave an opportunity for children to see, talk with, and learn from SMC Airmen and walk away excited about the technology we create.

Like rockets! SMC showcased a mini-rocket building exhibit sponsored by the Air Force Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program.

To demonstrate this technology, children were able to build and launch their own miniature rockets under the helpful guidance of SMC personnel.

“Oohs” and “Ahhs” echoed around the Air Force tent as each set of rockets blasted upwards of 100 feet in the sky, and cries of “incoming!” from the newly-minted rocketeers warned bystanders to watch for descending paper rockets. 

Children were also taught to draw their own orbits to learn the importance of monitoring and controlling satellites so they maintain a stable orbit. This is a big concept for a kid to understand, but when coupled with a marker and cool-looking mini robot that tracks and follows their marker scribbles, the science of it all hits home in an exciting fashion.

“We want kids to realize anyone can be a scientist and engineer and they can play a key role in developing the most advanced space systems in the world, whether it’s for the Air Force, NASA, or a commercial company,” said Lt. Col. Alec E. Porter, SMC STEM Outreach Director, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base.

“Many people don’t realize the huge impact space plays on their everyday lives and that SMC is right in the middle of it. It would be a very different world without GPS, weather satellites, and other space based systems pioneered by SMC.”

In addition to hands-on learning, kids got the opportunity to witness an oath of enlistment by parade Grand Marshal, Rear Admiral Babette “Bette” Bolivar, commander, Navy Region Southwest, who administered the oath to roughly 200 delayed entrance program recruits.

Admiral Bolivar welcomed the newly sworn-in recruits with high-fives all-around!

Airman 1st Class Lory Cormier, originally from Haiti, and a recruit herself just seven short months ago, works in commander support staff for the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base. She joined the Air Force when she was just 17 years old, when her parents had to sign her enlistment papers giving her permission to serve.

At the Torrance Armed Forces Day banquet Saturday evening, Cormier was recognized by Mayor of Torrance, Patrick J. Furey, for being the youngest Airmen serving at LA AFB.

“I think community events like the parade give kids a sense of pride and nationalism and a chance to see the men and women that fight for their freedom. It really defines what it means to be an American. It’s very monumental,” said Cormier.

Community events like the Torrance Armed Forces Day Celebration aren’t just about the pomp and circumstance and “rah rah rah” of supporting our military, it’s a way to engage with and inspire kids to think big and think about their future.

Admiral Bolivar hit on this during her speech at Saturday’s Torrance Armed Forces Day banquet, “We are free to choose our profession. We are free to choose our various paths that life will lead us.”

After interacting with SMC personnel this past weekend, maybe, just maybe, a spark ignited with one child and that path will lead back to SMC….and that’s why, events like these are more than just a military celebration.