48th Annual Torrance Armed Forces Day Celebration Draws Crowd of 50,000
By Major April Jackson, SMC Public Affairs
/ Published May 21, 2007
Los Angeles Air Force Base -- Torrance officials estimate that the 48th Annual Torrance Armed Forces Day celebration drew 50,000 people from May 18-20. As dawn broke on May 19, large crowds began lining up their chairs and blankets along the parade route several hours before 79 entries began their march along tree-lined Torrance Boulevard.
At 1:30 p.m., the parade kicked off and the cheering began with spectators rising from their seats many times as a C-17 hovered low above the Torrance Civic Center, tanks rumbled by, high school marching bands played patriotic tunes, and Purple Heart recipients from Operation Iraqi Freedom waved from their parade vehicles.
"It (Torrance events) gives the opportunity for the public to say thanks to the men and women in the armed forces," said Dave Crespin, public information officer for the Torrance Police Department. "We owe a lot to them, especially in today's time with war. They put themselves in harm's way for us."
This year was especially significant for the Air Force since it was the designated lead service. All five branches of the U.S. armed forces and active guard and reserve military units were represented during the three days.
Gen. Kevin Chilton, Air Force Space Command commander, served as the Grand Marshal for the parade. A Los Angeles AFB honor guard led the way as Los Angeles, Edwards, and Vandenberg Air Force Bases and March Air Reserve Base marched passed the crowds with a total of more than 300 airmen proudly participating.
"Regardless of the military mission, all of us depend on the backing of our fellow American citizens to successfully accomplish our duties," said General Chilton. "That's why I am so proud to take part in the tradition that is your Torrance Armed Forces Day parade and celebration. Just as our veterans serve as inspiration, so does the City of Torrance in its long-standing unwavering support for those who have, and are, serving."
This support means so much to the Pena family. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Pena, his wife, Jasmine, and 2-year-old son, Dominic, came to the parade for the second year in a row from Fort Irwin, Calif., where the sergeant is stationed. Sergeant Pena also participated in the parade. He will leave for an 18-month deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan in just three weeks. He has served in Kuwait and Iraq on previous deployments.
"It makes you feel like the community is hugging you and supporting what our soldiers do out there," Ms. Pena said. "It gives you a sense that people haven't lost hope even though we're in war."
When Torrance recognizes our past and present veterans year after year, it demonstrates the city's complete dedication to our military forces, said Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, Space and Missile Systems Center commander at LAAFB.
"It was wonderful to see the thousands of people lining the streets of Torrance honoring all of the joint service military men and women serving our country," General Hamel said. "For nearly five decades, Torrance has honored those who serve 'in harm's way' and at home with the parade and its associated events."
Displays inside and outside the Del Amo Mall, concerts by the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West, and a reveille ceremony were also part of the celebration. The 369th Recruiting Squadron and Air Force Reserves pumped up the crowds with F-16 and F-22 mini jets and a decked-out trailer and truck. Exhibits inside the mall from LAAFB included Air Force Space Command, the Global Positioning Systems Wing, the Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing, the Space Based Infrared Systems Wing, and the Launch and Range Systems Wing.