MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The stadium lights shined onto the tennis court as 15,000 people cheered from their seats. As the Marines marched on to the court, their faces were illuminated alongside the United States and Marine Corps colors.
The Combat Center Marines were featured during the Banque Nationale de Paris Paribas Open’s Salute to Heroes in Indian Wells, Calif., March 7, 2014.
The base color guard, students with the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School, and the base’s commanding general all participated in this year’s ceremony.
“There are a bunch of people in the stands screaming and hollering and even more watching at home,” said Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, Commanding General, Combat Center.
The BNP Paribas Open is an annual tennis tournament held in Indian Wells and has hosted Marines as part of its ceremonies for close to a decade. Their Salute to Heroes, set in the middle of the stadium honors those who serve.
The televised event’s Salute to Heroes portion began after 9 p.m. with the introduction of the commanding general, who stood alongside wounded warriors and members of the police department.
The Combat Center color guard stepped onto the court holding the Marine Corps and national colors. They marched around the court to their staging position, facing the commanding general and other honorees.
“It was amazing stepping onto the court,” said Lance Cpl. Simon Kellogg, Combat Center color guard. “It’s an honor to represent the Marine Corps here.”
They were followed by approximately 100 MCCES students and instructors holding the United States flag. They unfurled the flag covering the entire court. The Marines raised their right hands to salute as the crowd rose from their seats to pay tribute to the symbol of the United States.
After they rolled up the flag, the crowd cheered as the Marines left the court.
The Marines were invited to stay and watch the rest of the tournament and enjoy the evening’s competitions, where Rafael Federer won his match against Dmitry Tursonov and Tomas Berdych was defeated by Roberto Bautista Agut.
Each Marine was also given a meal card, allowing them to eat for free at the many food courts around the stadium. While walking through the stadium after the ceremony they were stopped and thanked by many attendees for their service.
“Not many Marines get a chance to be on national television and show the rest of the world what Marines are about,” Berger said. “It’s good for us to represent our Corps.”