OCEANSIDE — Once a year Oceanside holds Operation Appreciation to honor active duty military and their families on Armed Forces Day. This year’s celebration takes place at the Oceanside Pier on May 20.
It’s a day the city rolls out the red, white and blue carpet to thank troops. A complimentary lunch, live entertainment and free carnival rides are planned for active duty military with ID.
“We as a community get together to feed them, give them a day of fun and hope they feel appreciated,” Kristi Hawthorne, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce vice president of events, said.
This year’s celebration begins with an opening ceremony that includes color guards, keynote speakers, bag pipes and a tribute to Camp Pendleton’s 75-year anniversary.
The event will welcome 150 Marines from Camp Pendleton’s School of Infantry who are completing their training as special guests.
A giant American flag will mark the beach recreation center where a free hot lunch will be served to troops and their families courtesy of local restaurants.
Outside live music will be performed on the amphitheater stage, which will be adorned with flags from all military branches. This year military melodies will be sung in a USO-style performance. The Heroes dance band will also perform.
A kids’ zone will include rides, inflatable jumps, a rock climbing wall, games, face painting and crafts. To add to the fun, storybook characters will pose with kids for photos.
There will also be vendor booths, giveaways and military vehicles on display. Spectators will be able to climb aboard land and sea vehicles from the Marine Corps Mechanized Museum. HMMWVs (Humvees), a 5-ton cargo truck and an eight-wheel-drive LVS will be on display. Troops will be on hand to answer questions about the vehicles.
“It’s exciting for the general public to meet the face behind that job,” Hawthorne said. “They love to talk about what they do.”
Civilians and veterans are invited to attend the event and thank troops for their service. Everyone is welcome to enjoy free entertainment, and food and carnival rides for purchase.
About 10,000 people are expected to attend the celebration, which has become an annual tradition for many military families.
“It’s awesome Oceanside puts this together,” an enlisted Marine said. “It’s great to get together and be appreciated.”
Operation Appreciation is sponsored by Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. Local restaurants, businesses, volunteers and the city support the yearly event that has been held since 2002.
Operation Appreciation takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 20, at the Junior Seau Oceanside Pier Amphitheater. Free trolley shuttle service is available with stops at Civic Center Drive, Seagaze Drive and North Horne Street. For more information, see oceanssideoperationappreciation.com.