Torrance, Calif. -- In the city’s longest standing tradition, service members were honored during the 54th Annual Armed Forces Day Celebration and Parade, in Torrance, Calif., May 18.
The event held Friday through Sunday featured a military exhibit with various tactical vehicles and equipment on display, a free concert and the Torrance Armed Forces Day Parade, which is the nation’s longest running military parade sponsored by a city.
The grand marshal was retired Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, former deputy commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force. The honorary grand marshals for the event were retired Capt. Edward Q. Hicks and retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert D. Reid, both of whom are Montford Point Marines. Montford Point, a facility at Camp Lejeune, N.C., received the first African-Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps.
“As we’re getting back to downsizing the force, the opportunity for those in uniform to interact with their fellow citizens is starting to diminish,” Spiese said. “So events like this give the people of the south bay and the city of Torrance the opportunity to meet those in uniform and really understand the quality of people who are serving our country and improve the confidence they have of those who wear the uniform.”
More than 500 future service members participated in a mass oath of enlistment administered by Spiese. It was a humbling experience for the Montford Point Marines.
“When you look around and you see the things that took place here today, when all those people got sworn in, and you look at all the cultures, then it goes to show everything that you went through was all worth while, and it can only get better,” Hicks said.
Each year a different branch of the military is honored. This year celebrated the Marine Corps.
“I’m very proud to represent the United States Marine Corps,” Hicks said. “It’s a very fine organization. There will never be an organization like the Marine Corps.”
The Montford Point Marines received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011 and were proud to be recognized during the parade. Hick’s appreciated the credit but was humble about being considered a hero.
“The only heroes are those that didn’t come back. Those that became prisoners of war and those who received Purple Hearts-those guys were the real heroes as far as I’m concerned,” Hicks said.