The Marines and their families from Camp Pendleton’s 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines – the unit from which 10 of the 13 servicemen killed in the Kabul airport bombing came – had some “reel fun” this weekend as part of the 46th Dana Point Boat Parade of Lights.
They and members of the 5th Marine Regiment were accommodated aboard the Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching Boat, which, along with dozens of other well-lit vessels, visited Dana Point Harbor on December 10, 11 and 12. The Marines enjoyed homemade chili and cornbread at Coffee Importers, a favorite harbor restaurant.
“It is an honor and a privilege to welcome these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much so that our United States can remain a strong and free nation,” said Donna Kalez, who operates the Whale Charter Company and fishing boat that owns the Reel Fun. . âWe owe our active duty members more than we can ever repay, and it is for this reason that every year for the past 10 years Dana Wharf, with her fully decorated boat, has provided that festive radiance during the holidays. We just want them to know that we appreciate their sacrifice.
The Reel Fun, commanded by Army veteran Chris Pica, sailed the harbor with around 70 other boats.
The parade started at the harbor entrance and passed Dana Wharf to Waterman’s restaurant and turned around, returning past Dana Wharf and into the inner harbor channel and up to the harbor bridge. There they turned around again and walked past the Wind & Sea Restaurant and the Harbor Patrol Wharf, turning towards the outer harbor channel. From there the boats went to the Ocean Institute and crossed the Eastern Basin to the bridge, then returned for another loop.
“They’re right over there having fun,” said Pica, whose uncle served in the Marines during Vietnam and flew 186 missions behind enemy lines. He was shot twice.
âIt’s an honor for me to take these guys out,â he said. âAll the sacrifices they made for ‘Us the people’. “
While Kalez donates the boat and crew, food, drink and a DJ are free thanks to two community support groups – the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group and the Marine Corps League-South Coast Detachment. Both organizations support the units throughout the year.
âWhen our families get on board, it’s all about the house,â said Pete Hammer, commander of the Marine Corps League-South Coast detachment supporting 2/1. “I think for all of these Marines it is a great relief and a diversion to enjoy the light show in the harbor.”
Hammer and his group supported the Marines of 2/1 after returning from their deployment in the Middle East. In October, the detachment contributed to a private memorial to the 13 killed held on a helicopter landing pad atop a hill above Camp Pendleton. The support group hosted 500 Marines, their families and the Gold Star families of the nine Marines and Sailors killed in Kabul.
âCamp Pendleton is one of the most unique bases because it enjoys great support from the community,â said Hammer. âA large number of units are either adopted or supported by community groups, VFW and churches. Many of them are from Orange County.
Likewise, Terry Rifkin, 5th Marine Regiment Group President at Dana Point and Psychotherapist, said she believed community help was essential for Marines returning from Afghanistan and other members of 5th Regiment. of Marines who have deployed and will be deployed.
âI’m still looking at the short and long term effects this unit (2/1) has endured,â Rifkin said. âIt wasn’t supposed to end like this. I don’t know how much the Marine Corps does for the morale of these units, but it’s important that they come here and see a grateful nation. I think many felt abandoned.
Rifkin also praised Kalez, who came up with the idea 10 years ago when she served on the 5th Regiment Support Group board of directors.
âDonna goes the extra mile with not only a collection of toys for Marine families, but also to donate the boat for three nights,â said Rifkin. “She is very committed to giving and serving, and her generosity is always on top.”
Anyone wishing to donate to Marine Families can do so by dropping off unwrapped gifts at the Dana Wharf office, 34675 Golden Lantern in Dana Point Harbor, until December 16.