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Service members celebrated at Armed Forces appreciation event

The May gray didn’t dampen spirits at the Oceanside Pier for a military operations appreciation event on May 19. Active duty military members and their families enjoyed free food, entertainment, booths and fun for the kids.

Now in its 17th year, Armed Forces Day Military Operation Appreciation, hosted by the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, celebrates active duty and retired Marines from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Oceanside as well as service members from all military branches.

Michael Leak, an enlisted servicemen with the Navy for 13 ½ years, came out with his family —wife Ai, sons Gabriel, Daniel and Samuel and baby daughter Layla. “This make us feel great,” Leak said. “It brings everyone together and celebrates veterans too.”

Many Oceanside businesses contribute to this event, providing the food and festivities. Volunteers Amelia Ramirez and Genieve Reichert from Walmart helped serve food and pass out water. Reichert, who also volunteered at this event last year, said it feels great to give back to the military and their families.

“It’s eye opening,” she said, especially to see the mothers at the event whose husbands are on active deployment. “We can give back to the families.”

Volunteer Haley Peterson with the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce was most moved by the opening ceremony, which included the color guard and bagpipes. “It’s so emotional,” she said. “We are so close to the base so it’s great for us to say thank you.”

Paul Kerr, Democrat running for the 49th congressional seat, was also in attendance. As a retired Navy enlisted serviceman, Kerr felt that this event was very important to attend. As a veteran, he said “you are part of a big family” no matter what branch you served in.

Part of his campaign is aimed at improving life for active duty and retired military members. “As an E1-E3 enlisted you qualify for food stamps,” he said. “We have got to make the pay for our enlisted better.” He also wants to improve job opportunities for those leaving military service.

Enlisted Army servicewomen Khala Galbreath, with 10 years of service, and Tennille Jones with 16 ½ years, appreciated this event. “I love Oceanside and their support,” Jones said. They were on a lunch break from work and in their fatigues. Community members were thanking them for their service as they were walking around the booths in the amphitheatre.

“It’s great to be appreciated,” Galbreath said.

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