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Looking north to Lost Winds from Riviera.

SUNDAY SESSION:Looking north to Lost Winds from Riviera.

Somehow like a swtitch it happens and Fall begins.  Its colder at night and the sun sets a little sooner each day.  There is that dampness that lingers,  climbs over everything and doesn’t let go until late in the morning.  The full suits go on and sweaters are packed in the top of the bag for a trip to the beach. 

I like the light in fall; its soft, sleepy and slow.  Its not really a haze in the air but that everything seems heavier.  Summer tans start to fade and if you are anywhere near the beach, the smell of the ocean is closer.  The sharpness of summer is gone and I’m always kinda glad.

 

FiveBlocks

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Major Bill Smith USMC/RET., of San Clemente and a vetran of Iwo Jima and Guam, lends words of support and experience for Marine Corp recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente at their last civilian meal before entering boot camp on Monday evening.  Steven Villegas, 19, of Whittier(left, foreground) looks on. Every Monday at noontime the United States Marine Corp calls the Denny’s in San Clemente and asks to speak with Guillermo Santos.  Santos will answer simply and wait to hear the number; the number of plates to set for the weekly busload of Marine recruits on their way to the San Diego Marine Recruit Training Center that will be eating their last civilian meal for 13 weeks.

 

…Most of the time its 20 or 30 guys…sometimes its just 12 or 15…and in the summer it can be as many as 45…”

 Former Navy Radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor, Pete Limon, of San Juan Capistrano, shares his experiences during WW2 while waiting to address Marine Recruits at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico for their last civilian meal on Monday evening.

Every week the recruits file in and every week Major Bill Smith USMC/Ret. is there ahead of time, in the same booth, with his friend, Pete Limon, Navy radioman and Pearl Harbor survivor.  They sit in the back, on the way to the bathrooms, passing the time talking about the old days and their investments. 

 

They don’t talk too much about the recruits during this time; they were recruits themselves once and their feelings are too intimate and common between the two men; anything to say has been said as they watch together, their own newer shadows stepping off a rented Marine Corp bus in the parking lot beside them.

 

 

 

 

 Tall, short, shaggy and trim, these young men, the new believers, disembark from the bus that will shortly deliver them to a tight jawed, stubborn, un-bending drill instructor.  This day there are 23 volunteers that file in for a choice of steak and shrimp, hamburger and fries, salad bar or pasta with marinara sauce.  They will taste for the last time Coca-Cola and eat without hurry and without a screaming Marine Corp Sergeant counting off the minutes they are allowed to consume their meal. 

 

Brad Napier, 18 of Lompoc and Johnny Carillo, 19, of Mission Viejo are Marine Corp recruits lining up for their last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.Heads bowed and with little to say, they lean into their plates, the first light of the reality that will be their lives for the next 4 years has begun to stretch across a landscape of food made by someone other than their mothers. Smith makes his way to them between the breakfast counter and the tall, thin wood grain laminate privacy partition.

 

 

A dress saber is exchanged for an aluminum walker, its creaks and squeals compete with silverware, plates, pans and spatulas in the kitchen.  The other diners sit a little stiffer and a little quieter as they watch Major Smith pass by; a Marine Major, retired, thin, grey and  wobbly but determined, still calls their attention and respect.  

 

Smith enters the cluster of booths, along with Limon, at the end of the restaurant and begins to speak.  Limon pulls a few photos and documents from an old folder and motions for them to be handed around among the recruits.  At first, most are more concerned about what is on their plates and talking to each other but then, slowly begin to pay attention and listen.  Smith’s words convey support and care for the brotherhood they will soon share when they are Marines in 3 months.  

 

Smith’s words are simple and to the point; he does not share anything about his time in Iwo Jima, Guam and Korea so many years ago.  The recruits that want to understand show it in their eyes and nodding heads.  The rest will know what it means at the end of 13 weeks.

 Guillermo Santos, of Denny\'s, prepares to seat Ramiro Alvarez, 21, of Downey, a Marine Corp recruit, for his last civilian meal at the Denny\'s on Avenida Pico in San Clemente on Monday evening.

Limon finishes “their routine” as he calls it with a few words of his own and as everyone in one shot could not hear them, they move to the other side of the booths to repeat it.  The recruits where I sit are a little quieter and more thoughtful; they have been handed another clue and see a little further into the unknown world they have joined. 

 

 

I move from one to another for their names, hometowns and ages for my photo captions.  Strangely familiar, they respond in similar voices of those “Victory at Sea” documentaries I watched as a kid.  Their names come, different and unknown, but their towns sound strong and close.  Lompoc, Santa Clarita, Whittier, Lakewood, Slymar.  These are California towns and cities and I am suddenly more involved than if they had said Pokipsie, Grosse Point, Saint George or Galvaston. 

   

     “Can I get your name?” I ask.

Sure,  it’s {Johnny Carrillo}” he says and spells it so I get it right with the two r’s in his last name.

“Mission Viejo” he responds after I ask him where he is from and then states his age as 19.

I ask him if he went to Mission Viejo High School and what year he graduated.

“I went to Capo Valley” he says and adds “I graduated last year”

“Why did you join the Marine Corp?” I asked.

He began to respond with something he thought better of and stopped, looking up at me from his finished plate of Steak and shrimp.  The shy, gangly grin he shared earlier with his new friends at the table turned instantly to the sure, solid and serious words of a soon to be Marine.
 
 

“For the experience, sir.”

 

 

 

 http://www.ocregister.com/articles/recruits-limon-smith-2066075-san-clemente

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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