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By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

CAMP PENDLETON -(CA)- About 800 Marines from the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion gathered in front of Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Community Center to take in the smells of an early Thanksgiving dinner provided by San Clemente Presbyterian Church on Friday.

Peter Carissimo, the church’s head volunteer chef for the event, asked a Marine sergeant waiting in line if it smelled good, kiddingly telling the Marine it was all from Pendleton’s mess hall.

Article Tab: friday-wife-nadica-isaac
Marine Cpl. Isaac Rivera, with his wife, Nadica, and daughter Isabella Marie, work their way through the Thanksgiving chow line Friday afternoon.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
“Oh, no it isn’t, sir,” the sergeant said. “I work in the mess and it for sure didn’t come out of there.”

San Clemente Presbyterian holds several events every year for its “adopted: Marine unit, but Carissimo said the Thanksgiving meal is by far the most complicated. It brings together about 300 volunteers from all over south Orange County to prepare 100 turkeys, 600 pounds of stuffing and yams and 50 gallons of gravy. Even San Clemente’s Fisherman’s seafood restaurant helped out this year, cooking 28 turkeys in its kitchen.

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

Volunteers were especially eager to serve this year, knowing that in the coming week, at least one segment of 44 Marines will deploy to Afghanistan.

For Friday’s event, about 40 people served the meal. The youngest volunteer, 5-year-old Abigail Gratteau, helped place tablecloths on long tables set up by Marines earlier in the day.

Maj. Tony Mitchell, executive officer of 1st CEB, spoke to the assembled Marines, counting the things he is most thankful for. But he added some sad news and words of caution – earlier in the morning, a Marine had died in a motorcycle accident on I-5 just outside the Basilone entrance to the base.

“Remember to be thankful for everyone, and especially now with this reminder,” Mitchell said. “There are some pretty sad Marines somewhere on this base right now.”

Event organizer Chuck Herpick, a Navy veteran, thanked the Marines for their service. Then came Carissimo, known by 1st CEB members for his hand in a recent spaghetti dinner.

“We enjoy doing what we do for all of you because we know and won’t forget what you all do for us and protecting our country,” Carissimo said.

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A helping hand from Dad.

 

 

CAMP PENDLETON -(CA)- More than 700 Marine families at Camp Pendleton received free back-to-school supplies, clothes and shoes over the weekend, courtesy of area chapters of the Assistance League, a national nonprofit organization.

For several hours Saturday and Sunday, families, assisted by personal shoppers, made the rounds at the San Onofre Community Center at the Marine base, selecting notebooks, pens, paper, hygiene kits with toothbrushes and toothpaste, and two complete school outfits for boys and girls from kindergarten to 12th grade. Goods worth about $75,000 were distributed.

Marine kids hit the rack.

Marine Sgt. Natan Nagler helps his son Andrew, 6, pick out a pair of jeans during the Assistance League’s back-to-school charity event at the San Onofre Community Center at Camp Pendleton.

“It’s brilliant; the families are so grateful,” said former British Royal Marine Anthony Kay of Oceanside, now a U.S. Marine Corps community-service recreational assistant at Camp Pendleton. “The organization, with time slots and appointments, makes everything run smoothly.”

 

Already a long day and it's only been 15 minutes.


Ann Steinhilper, Assistance League of Capistrano Valley chapter chairwoman for Camp Pendleton, said six other chapters also participated to make this year’s back-to-school event the biggest since it began five years ago. The Laguna BeachSaddleback Valley, Temecula Valley, Rancho San Dieguito, North Coast San Diego and Inland North Coast (San Diego) chapters joined Capistrano Valley, each working about 50 hours over two weeks to assemble the project. Steinhilper said each chapter was responsible for selecting, purchasing and delivering goods to the Community Center, using money raised throughout the year at fundraisers and donation drives, as well as through grants for nonprofits.

Shaylee Wallace, 13, of Oceanside welcomed the effort with a big smile, saying what a help the new clothes would be this school year.

Danielle Kidder, 12, attended with her father, Marine Staff Sgt. Warren Kidder of the 7th Engineer Support Battalion. She said she was happy with the two new tops she got, especially a bright purple sweat shirt.

 

New jeans are definitely worth a big smile

Sheri Burns, a Marine Corps community-service worker who has a son in the Marines, said there’s no doubt the event raises the spirits of Marine families and expresses how the surrounding community appreciates what the Marines do for their country.

“It’s just a good thing to do, and giving things is another way for people to say ‘Thank you’ to the families of the deployed Marines,” Burns said. “It really helps out.”

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Bring'n it in.

CAMP PENDLETON -(CA)- The San Clemente Heritage Foundation, which supports Semper Fi Park, The Marine Monument, attended an open house, along with City of San Clemente officials and Chamber of Commerce members, hosted by the foundation’s adopted US Marine Helicopter Light Attack Squadron, “Scarface” (Hover Cover)- HMLA 367, at Camp Pendleton on Friday morning.

Big shoulders for a big job.

Guests were briefed by Marine pilot, and 2010 Marine Aviator of the Year, Captain Gregory Youngberg, on the squadron’s history, equipment, mission and capability.  The group was also addressed by Squadron Commanding Officer and past Marine Aviator of the Year, Lt. Col. Carlton Hasle, explaining the unit’s distinction in leading the largest Helicopter operation since the Vietnam War, in Marjah, Afghanistan during their last deployment in 2010.

Don't tread on me.

The group was shown how Marine Corps pilots are trained with night vision goggles and actually got to test them out in specially designed “dark rooms” complete with small scaled terrain models that display roads, bridges, buildings, hills and forests as seen by chopper pilots in flight.

US Marines as a general rule, improvise, adapt and overcome.

Attendees were also shown and allowed to “fly” in the same flight simulators Marine pilots spend up to several hours a week to fine tune and sharpen their skills.

Chamber of Commerce member and former Marine, Burton Brown, “flew” second seat in a Huey Cobra simulator gunship with only a little help and a proud handshake afterwards from 367 Marine pilot Captain Ferrone. “Scarface” HMLA 367 is the first and only squadron in the US military to have the newest upgraded four bladed Huey “Yankee” utiltiy helicopter and the Huey “Zulu” Cobra gunships along with a state of the art flight simulator for each chopper.  The upgrade basically takes the regular two blade models, commonly recognized in any Vietnam war movie, adding two more blades, giveing the aircraft more power, lift and stability, which is a critical with the latest technology advances in weaponry.

Civilian Simulator Program Director and former Marine Helicopter pilot, Jack Welch, says the units cost about 20 million dollars each and have been on the drawing board for last 15 years.

“No one else in the world has this, and they won’t…it’s all made in the United States because we are the best…no one in the world can compare.” Welch said.

Practice makes perfect.

Squadron CO, Lt. Col. Hasle presented San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak with a large glass framed “Thank You” with photos, patches and signed by everyone from “Scarface” HMLA 367, stating how much the City’s support means to the unit, while committing to speaking again at the City’s 4th of July festivities.

“Last year they said it would be around 400 people, and it was more like 10,000, so even though I am a little suspicious, I’ll be there.” Lt. Col. Hasle said with a big smile.

Its got to be something to do with the uniform.

Finally, the group was taken out to the flight line through the unit’s hanger bay to watch as squadron choppers were brought in, landing so that everyone could climb inside and check them out and ask questions first hand.  Chamber of Commerce member Steve Ynzunza said he is absolutely sure the Marines put taxpayer monies to good use after what he saw on Friday morning.

A group for all seasons.

“We see these same helicopters fly over San Clemente, up the coast all the time and you just can’t really see what they are actually all about until you are this close, its just amazing.” Ynzunza said.

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Author, Sequoia Beckman

SAN CLEMENTE,  -(CA)- Sequoia Beckman was more than a little lonely after his stepfather was deployed to Afghanistan in October with a Marine Corps unit from Camp Pendleton. The feeling intensified when members of his stepdad’s unit came back wounded.

So the 11-year-old, a student at Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre School, published a book called “Arthur and the Brave Knights of Camelot” and is donating all sales proceeds to injured Marines through the Semper Fi Fund. He has raised more than $500 so far and hopes for more with the second edition.

“My stepdad’s a Marine, I live on base, and it makes sense,” Sequoia said.

His efforts caught the attention of Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit assistance group for military families that made Sequoia one of 20 semifinalists nationwide for the 2011 Military Child of the Year Award in the Marine Corps division. Finalists are scheduled to be announced Friday, with a winner in each of the five branches of military service to be chosen Wednesday.

Each award recipient will get $5,000 and a place in a recognition ceremony April 7 in Washington, D.C.

Sequoia loves to read and is especially interested in anything from medieval times, according to his mother, Sherry Simburger. And with his stepfather, Sgt. Major Karl Simburger, deployed to Afghanistan, she said it wasn’t a big surprise that he wrote his book about knights and dragons – characters derived from the classic literary theme of good guys vs. bad guys.

Beckman’s Book, Arthur and The Brave Knights of Camelot.

Sequoia wrote the book and enlisted fellow San Onofre student Charlotte McGhee, 13, to do the artwork because he thought she had a special feeling for dragons. He insisted on getting a publisher, a copyright and an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, which commercial booksellers use to identify books for sale.

The first edition of 100 copies has already sold out, thanks to his mother’s Facebook announcement to friends and family.

In February at the annual Marine West Expo in San Diego, a demonstration of Marine Corps aviation, Sequoia and McGhee promoted the book and signed copies.

Sherry Simburger says Sequoia asks her each day for details about the book’s sales. When someone in Ohio who was not a family member or friend bought the book, he felt he had become a real author, she said.

“Sequoia held back at first and was complaining a little bit that people were not buying the book. So I told him he had to grab each person and sell it,” Simburger said. “And so he really got into it. He attached himself to every person who came by, even some Marine Corps generals, and if they didn’t buy on the way in, he got them on the way out.”

Sequoia’s fifth-grade teacher, April Pezman, said he has an amazing gift for writing. He often could be found working on his book during lunch and recess and is already working on the sequel, she said.

“The class was amazed when Sequoia walked in with his real published book. After he read it to them, they had looks of astonishment,” Pezman said. “He proved that dreams can come true. I am very proud of him.”

HOW TO BUY THE BOOK:

“Arthur and the Brave Knights of Camelot” can be purchased for $10 at arthur-and-the-brave-knights.blogspot.com

The Register article:

Pendleton Marine’s son up for Military Child of Year | book, sequoia, marine – News – The Orange County Register

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Thanks for the cozy blanket.

CAMP PENDLETON, -(CA)- Donated diapers, wipes and clothes for 574 children of military personnel rolled into Camp Pendleton on Thursday morning, courtesy of the Assistance League of Capistrano Valley.

And Tia Thorpe, manager of the San Onofre Community Center, where the goods were distributed, is glad they did.

“It benefits the families, so it’s a good thing. But it also shows that other people care outside the military. It hasn’t always been that way,” Thorpe said. “The families really appreciate it.”

According to Ann Steinhilper of San Juan Capistrano, chairwoman of the local Assistance League’s “Chapters for Children,” the organization holds three distribution days a year for different age groups, including a “back to school” day in August. The group raises funds through lunches, mailers, website donations and federal and state grants.

Steinhilper says the group focuses on the north end of the Camp Pendleton Marine base, where extra help isn’t as widely available because of its remoteness. The league purchases the diapers and wipes in addition to providing two complete outfits for each child. The cost comes to about $14 per child.

Checking it out.

Two new programs include volunteers knitting and sewing and making quilts and sweaters for toddlers. The Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center in Mission Viejo provided handmade sweaters this year, and Heart to Heart, a Long Beach group, sent handmade quilts.

Many mothers have been to the event more than once, saying the help makes a difference with their husbands away for up to a year on deployment.

Christina Blackwell visited for the first time with her children, Emmalin, Elsa and Ashlyn, and slowly walked among the tables full of clothes and quilts. Elsa and Ashlyn quickly wrapped themselves in a multicolored afghan Blackwell picked out for them.

“These women (volunteers) are great, and the things they do for our families is amazing,” Blackwell said.

Marine Sgt. Ruchir Patel made his fifth visit, this time to help distribute diapers and wipes, load cars and clean up.

“I utilize the program myself. I have four kids, and I’m here because I want to give back,” Patel said with a smile.

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Cyclists gather at San Clemente Cycles on Sunday morning for a memorial ride in tribute to shop owner John Cuchessi.

 

Over the past week I had already seen that several websites, from newspapers to cycling teams and a few industry sites, had highlighted the Sunday morning ride from San Clemente Cycles, in honor of Cuchessi.  I knew that there would be a lot of people just because the word of mouth; I went to take some photos and had to keep backing up as people kept coming.  Finally I got the best shot of everyone from the roof. 

 

Originally, to me, 120 people would have been a lot but then it turned out to be about 350 I would guess.  The motivation for the ride was not only to honor Cuchessi but also to talk about his spiritual side that many may not have known he had. 

 

The street next to the shop, San Luis Rey, filled up, row by row, of earnest cyclists with a mixed stew of their affiliation to San Clemente Cycles, printed on their jerseys.  Bright, volcanic neon colors everywhere, it was hard to focus on any single one thing except the bright shining faces ready to ride.  Some announcements were made as everyone quieted down and a few spoke of their weekly prayer and fellowship time with Cuchessi on early Thursday mornings at the shop.  It was not easy to hear everything said but there was no doubt about the effect Cuchessi had on everyone that he came across.

 

A few more announcements through a big Cal-Trans road cone (a very low-tech P/A system) and the group moved together for a group photo behind a banner that read “We Love and Miss You John 5.25.08”.  I think I was supposed to be in the front for the shot but then ended up on the roof.  I could hear my name being called and knew I’d never make it down; everyone was ready to go and anxious.  Now I’ll have to find someone to stitch it all together in Photo shop.

 

I guess it’s always something and it reminds me of what Cuchessi always used to say.  After one shared personal catastrophe or another he would inevitably comment “Well, Bro…if it’s the worst thing that ever happens to you, you’re pretty lucky”

 

 

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/ride-sunday-cuchessi-2051708-san-clemente

 

http://www.cboards.com/blog/2008/05/long-live-san-clemente-cyclery.html

 

 

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=420958

 

 

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Well wishers, friends and family of John Cuchessi, who died on Sunday May 18th at the age of 54, have decorated his bicycle shop with flowers, cards and signs in tribute to how much he will be missed.

John Cuchessi died on a ride last Sunday(May 18th) on his way back from Camp Pendleton. 

 

I got the news through a friend’s text message on my phone as I was working at the shop.  I can’t always hear the phone go off with all the tools and so I check the phone here and there throughout the day.  I felt something tug when I read it and I thought it wasn’t going to be good.  The text didn’t say too much; only that it had been a bike crash.  I called and they said he was at Mission Hospital.  I can see Mission from my shop and said a little prayer as I looked up over the freeway and through the trees to the top floors and the medi-vac pad on top.

 

I went up to the hospital and he wasn’t there.  My feelings that it was not good increased.  They gave me the number to Saddleback Memorial and I called.

 

“I’m sorry, how do yo spell the patient’s name?”  The Receptionist said through a hail storm of static and background sounds.

 

“J-O-H-N…A…C-U-C-H-E-S-S-I .” I spelled it out as simply as I used to when signing checks in his name at the shop for the UPS deliveries when Cuchessi wasn’t there.

 

She stalled a moment or two and continued.

 

“What is your realtionship to the patient?” She asked.

 

My memory wound back instantly to a long time ago when I first met Cuchessi.  How do you get those many memories out of your mouth in the few words she was waiting for?  Like some giant fish waiting to be pulled up onto the deck of the boat I jerked as hard as I could to try and get it out in one effort.

 

“Long time friend” I blurted.

 

She stalled again seemingly weighing what I had said.

 

“Sir…I am going to transfer you to the back…can you hold on?”

 

“Yes” I said. 

 

Yes to the transfer and yes to what I already knew would be the worst news.  This is a fish I didn’t want to catch and I imagined Sue sitting somewhere in that hospital and gathering up her memories of the man that was her husband and the father of her son.  I hung up in the middle of wait.  A call into my voice mail confirmed it.  A friend had called and I listened to what I already knew.

 

“Hey Dave…John’s gone…he died in the ambulance…” 

 

The message went on but there was nothing more to say.

 

 

 

 http://sccyclery.com/

 

http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_2046724.php

 

http://www.bicycleretailer.com/news/newsDetail/1361.html

 

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/john-san-clemente-2048417-gas-rezoning

 

http://www.cyclesveloce.com/forums/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=73

 

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/school-cuchessi-students-2056578-kids

 

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=420958

 

 

NOTE: I am doing a little write up on how I met Cuchessi which I will post here later.  Its almost done but I am deciding whether or not to submit it to a Narrative writing contest, in which case, it can’t be published until the contest is over.  Stay tuned…

 

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