The Warrior Bonfire Program conducted its first west coast Bonfire Trip to sunny southern California. The California Beach Bonfire Trip took place at Del Mar Beach Resort, Camp Pendleton, California. Great weather, great surf and a great time was had by all near San Diego. This was also our first fully integrated bonfire trip with another veteran service organization, Warrior Passion, led by a retired Marine, Joe Porrazzo. There is nothing more powerful in the Veteran Care world than organizations working together for the greater good! Our deserving Veterans experienced not one, not two, but three organizations that truly care about their well-being. That worked great and we met a new partner in our quest to help those that have served us all.
Friday’s arrival found our Veterans Airlift Command partner soaring in on time carrying one of our Purple Hearts in style in a Phenom 1000 jet all decked out as if it had just departed the Star-ship Enterprise. Our Southwest traveler from Tampa was not so lucky with a very unexpected layover extension in Nashville but she arrived just in time for the icebreakers on Friday evening. Yes, we said she! Our first female Purple Heart and we couldn’t be more excited!
Beach-side cottages and a dinner spread of grilled tri-tip, bacon stuffed jalapenos, salad and beans awaited our special guests, which set the tone for the entire weekend! Chef Damien out did himself! After dinner we had our first of three campfires complete with s’mores!
Nothing like waking up at your leisure at the beach on a Saturday morning! A welcomed slow start led us to the paddle boards, right outside the back door as we hit Del Mar Boat basin. Lower gravity (sitting and kneeling) boarding is where we found comfort but what does that matter?! We’re at the beach! Of the five us on boards, only two fell in the water, so all good results and passing with flying colors!
Later that afternoon, we headed down to Carlsbad Lagoon and hit the jet skis. This was a blast and no one crashed or took a plunge. (That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!) Later, back at Del Mar, we did some Boogie Boarding and captured some well-deserved R&R. Following another great barbeque dinner, prepared by Chef Joe, we lit the fire, shared our stories and ate more s’mores. (With explanation to Whitney that yes, it’s ok that you burn the marshmallows first).
Our last full day in the water was a fantastic day. Troy (a US Marine Osprey Crew Chief), his wife Heather and their son Stone joined us at the beach to teach us how to surf! With wicked waves and the California Sun, the setting was perfect to celebrate one of our very own achieve getting up and riding the waves! That evening we closed the weekend with the Warrior Bonfire’s Signature Bonfire Ceremony. While a somber and difficult event, the bonfire always brings the group closer together, showing our members that we are all brothers and sisters, full of understanding and support. And of course, once again we ate s’mores!
As the sun rose on Monday, we all relaxed a bit before heading out and got to see Marines swimming with snorkel gear in the boat basin. Del Mar Boat Basin is where the Marines launch amphibious boats and train. It looked like PT as the Gunny, who was in a boat, provided a little bit of loud encouragement. With that, we found our hearts were happy as we all departed for home knowing we had formed a new band of brothers and sisters as part of Team Bonfire. Thank you to all those that made this weekend possible!
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