MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Members of American Friends of our Armed Forces hosted a Salute the Troops dinner honoring service members, both active and veteran, at the Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells, Calif., March 4, 2014.
The AFAF is a non-profit corporation, organized to respond to the personal needs of American military personnel protecting our freedom overseas, and their families remaining at home, according to their mission statement.
Senior leaders from the Combat Center, as well as the Headquarters Battalion color guard, were invited to the event to represent the Marine Corps. Also in attendance were veterans from various branches of service, including retired Lt. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets from Desert Hot Springs High School, and the Indio High School marching band.
Prior to dinner, the band, cadets and Marine color guard performed an opening ceremony that included presenting the colors, as well as a live rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
“Everything we strive to do is for the troops,” said Walt Van Benthuysen, founder of the AFAF. “We want our troops to know we appreciate everything they do. We want the guys and girls overseas to know they have people back here who are praying for them, who are caring about their families and that they have people to depend on.”
After dinner, Lt. Col. Steven J. deLazaro, assistant chief of staff, Marine Corps Community Services, and Col. Jay M. Bargeron, commanding officer, 7th Marine Regiment, spoke in front of guests thanking them for dinner and speaking briefly on Combat Center operations.
“The best advice I ever got on public speaking is to be brief, be brilliant and be gone,” deLazaro said. “It is an honor to be a part of this dinner, and is always humbling to be recognized by others for our service.”
The AFAF is on a continued quest to better the lives of service members and their families. The organization has donated more than $1.5 million to programs that provide assistance to military families.