A group of soldiers recuperating from combat and their families will visit Long Beach on Sunday for the 10th annual Long Beach Waterfront Warriors 5K race and welcome parade.
The city will welcome 74 soldiers, including Marines and Navy personnel, who will be staying at the Allegria Hotel. The servicemen and women have suffered from injuries and conditions they’ve acquired through combat, including lost limbs, traumatic brain injuries, gunshot wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I think it’s good, because if you think back at the Vietnam veterans, they were kind of forgotten and never had these kind of greetings, and I think these men and women come in and say, ‘Wow, people haven’t forgotten us,” said John McLaughlin, a retired New York City firefighter who co-founded the organization with Jerry Snell in 2009.
The 5K race will begin at 8 a.m. on Sunday on the boardwalk at New York Avenue, and the welcome parade will step off at 3 p.m. at Ohio Avenue and Beech Street. A barbecue at the Long Beach Catholic Regional School will follow the parade.
The five-day retreat will include a Ducks game, a visit to the World Trade Center in Manhattan and a beach day where servicemen and women will take surfing lessons with Skudin Surf.
The Warriors held a fundraiser last Saturday at the Inn, and another at Lola’s Kitchen & Wine Bar in May, where volunteers and residents came out to support the cause. Raising money through the fundraisers is how the organization pays for a much-needed vacation to the soldiers, many of whom are undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Hospital in Virginia, McLaughlin said.
“We had one quadruple amputee, John Peck, who just recently got a double arm transplant,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said some veterans stay in the hospital for months at a time and are only able to receive one family member as a visitor.
“[At the parade], they’re surrounded, and it becomes a very social atmosphere, so I think they really appreciate that,” McLaughlin said. “Everybody comes up and says thank you to them.”
Other than the annual retreat, the Warriors also provide the wounded or ill soldiers and veterans with emergency medical evaluations, educational support and other important services. The organization has also sent care packages to soldiers overseas during the holidays.
Throughout the years, many community members have donated their time, money and energy to the cause, including the Long Beach Police Department, the Long Beach Fire Department, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1384, lifeguards, elected officials and the city administration.
“It’s a real community event,” McLaughlin said.