OCEANSIDE — The Honor Bowl was everything it promised to be, a match up of top high school football teams and a spirited two-day event to honor the military.
On Sept. 6, Oceanside High School faced Gardena Serra varsity team and Corona Centennial junior varsity team.
Between games skydivers dropped in with the game ball, handed it to Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood, who in turn handed it to former Marine Tim Chambers.
Chambers is known for his annual salute to military veterans held in Washington, D.C. The iconic photo of the event shows him saluting as rows of veterans on motorcycles pass him on either side.
During Honor Bowl festivities Chambers paid honor to two military Gold Star families who lost their sons in combat before their third week of military service.
Chambers recognized Tom, Patty and Kyle Schumacher, of Granite Bay, who lost Lance Corporal Victor Dew Schumacher.
He also recognized Julie Vinnedge, of St. Louis, Mo., who lost Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge.
Chambers handed each family a signed photo of his annual salute, and gave each family member a hug.
More football and military recognition followed.
During the varsity game halftime festivities Chambers and Jason Hallett, a military veteran and triple amputee, joined color guards to lead the flag salute.
On Sept. 7, six more varsity teams faced off. The lineup was Notre Dame verses Del Oro, Upland verses Oaks Christian, and Corona Centennial verses St. Bonaventure.
Between games skydivers dropped in and festivities to honor veterans were held.
During the two-day football showcase approximately 6,000 people attended.
This was the first year the Honor Bowl was held at Oceanside High School and the third year for the Honor Bowl series.
Mark Soto, Honor Group founder and CEO, said football and military service both instill teamwork and pride.
Soto is a former high school football coach and has two sons who are currently serving in the military. He said his sons are his inspiration for the Honor Bowl.
While still working as a coach at Del Oro High School in 2010, he organized the first Honor Bowl. His team and several other top high school teams took part in the football showcase.
“Del Oro has been in it ever since,” Soto said. “They’re one of the best teams in the state.”
Soto said his goal is to raise funds for veterans’ medical needs and bring recognition to veterans for their service.
The Honor Group also holds an Honor Tour in which speakers give a multimedia presentation on the honor and sacrifices of military men and women.
Soto has expanded the Honor Bowl to two, two- to three-day events.
“Teams hear about us and want to be a part of it,” Soto said.
Soto said he chooses top high school teams that have a strong connection to the military.
“The teams are my dream match ups,” Soto said. “I follow high school football like it’s a religion.”
Oceanside was invited to play in the Honor Bowl in 2012, due to its high state ranking and close proximity to Camp Pendleton.
Soto said a relationship developed with Oceanside coach John Carroll, who invited him to hold the Honor Bowl in Oceanside this year.