Story by Cpl Teagan Fredericks on 03/28/2019On March 23, 2019, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment joined the 1st Marine Division Band and the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard to represent the Marine Corps in the 61st annual Swallows Day Parade in San Juan Capistrano, California.
The parade is the final event of the three-month long Fiesta de las Golondrinas, or Festival of the Swallows, which celebrates the return of the migratory songbird to Mission San Juan Capistrano on St. Joseph's Day. The celebration highlights the town's historical Spanish and Western cultures to create a timeless event for people of all ages to enjoy.
This particular event is unique to 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment because the city of San Juan Capistrano adopted the unit in August of 2006 as a demonstration of their unwavering support. As the adoptive city, they support the battalion by organizing toy drives and bake sales, providing financial assistance for special occasions, and assisting deployed troops and their families. They also invite the battalion to participate in several events throughout the year ranging from community service opportunities to parades and concerts. The Swallows Day Parade is the most significant event that the battalion attends because it is an annual occasion honoring the tradition of the city and attracts a large audience from all around the world.
The Marines frequently participate in events like this throughout the area as a way of engaging with the residents, creating lasting relationships and giving back to the community that supports them. The Marines recognize the importance of these events and are honored to be a part of them.
"The parade is a great opportunity for us to show our gratitude to the city for all the support they offer our battalion year-round," said 1st Lt. Austin J Bury, a ground intelligence officer with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. Bury has attended the parade in previous years and was thankful for the opportunity to return this year with his battalion.
The Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard led the military portion of the parade by presenting the Marine Corps organizational colors and the national ensign of the United States of America on horseback. The 1st Marine Division Band followed behind them, performing patriotic melodies while 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment marched to the beat.
As the Marines marched down the narrow streets of San Juan Capistrano, the audience waved American flags and saluted. A couple in the crowd observed the Marines with tears in their eyes. They explained that their son is a Marine and is stationed on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms. They think of him every time they see a Marine and are subsequently filled with pride.
"I loved seeing the crowds reaction to us marching. They seemed to be really supportive and appreciative," Lance Cpl. Brian Lal, a field artillery fire control man with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, explained. Lal also mentioned that this was his first time attending the parade. He did not get the opportunity last year but was grateful for his experience this year and hopes more Marines are able to attend in the future.
When they finish the parade, you can find the Marines among the audience enjoying the sunny Southern California weather, live music and diverse food options provided by the people of San Juan Capistrano. They are able to mingle with the crowd and get to know them on a more personal, neighborly level. This interaction is meaningful for residents of the city and other places around the world who probably don't get the opportunity to see or talk to Marines very often. It also allows the Marines to take a break from the formalities of their everyday military life and build familial relationships while most of them are stationed far away from their actual families.
"Not only do the Marines have a great time enjoying the city and experiencing Southern California," Bury explained, "but it also provides a chance for such a large group of Marines to have these personal interactions."