Bobby Jones wasted no time leaving his home in Moreno Valley on Saturday to head south so he could witness the finest in American military aviation up close for the first time in years.
By mid-morning he had stationed himself along the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where the U.S. Navy parachute team Leap Frogs were floating down from a mile up in the sky.
“I try to make it every time they have one,” he said of the 2022 MCAS Miramar Air Show, which was being held locally for the first time in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jones, who was camped on a folding chair and munching on a paper boat of french fries, said he appreciated the view more than ever.
“You can take the person out of the military, but you can’t take the military out of the person,” the retired 27-year Marine Corps veteran said. “After being in combat, you’ve seen them all. It’s nice to see the old and the new once you get out.”
Tens of thousands of people turned out for the second day of the three-day San Diego tradition.
As always, there were speeches, vendors, recruiters, food, music and an impressive display of American aeronautical achievement in the skies over Miramar and also on the ground.
This year’s theme: Marines: Fight. Evolve. Win. — a nod to the technical innovations military commanders are relying on to protect the nation into the 21st century.
“You are about to see the finest aviators in the world,” said Col. Thomas Bedell, the MCAS Miramar commanding officer told the growing crowd in his welcome address. “It takes a team.”
Elmer Rodriguez and his wife, Jennifer Martinez, brought their three children from San Ysidro to see the Blue Angels, the flight squadron famous across the world.
“The baby loves airplanes,” said Rodriguez, a warehouse worker from San Ysidro who planted himself and his family — including 2-year-old Ruby — on the tarmac beneath the wing of an F-18 Hornet to escape the sun for a few minutes. “As soon as we got here she started yelling.”
Rodiguez said he has lived in San Diego for years but never before visited the air show.
“We always hear coworkers telling us about it, so we thought it would be fun to spend the day here,” he said.
Employers seeking new recruits took advantage of the huge crowds, setting up job fairs and touting their agencies.
In addition to local organizations like the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, recruiters from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and police departments from Oregon, Beverly Hills and San Francisco worked to attract jobseekers.
Enterprising merchants offered everything from ball caps and T-shirts — up to $30 each — to handcrafted wooden American flags emblazoned with the phrases “1776”, “We The People” and “In God We Trust” for up to $160.
Inside Hangar 1, just north of the fun zone set up for children, vendors marketed their wares. They were promoting the latest in drones, military-themed video games and other entertainment.
Nearby, in the innovation technology exposition, students showed off the products of their robotics competitions.
Dozens of retired military aircraft were displayed on the tarmac, many roped off with signs warning visitors not to touch. But larger plans were opened, inviting people to walk inside.
Joey and Jaimee Hernandez were inside a hulking KC-135R Stratotanker with their 2-year-old, J.J.
“We love it. We come all the time,” Joey Hernandez said. “Well not all the time; the last two years it’s been canceled.”
The Scripps Ranch family said viewing the aircraft up close allows them to see what they so often hear from their house in the hills just east of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
“It’s not something you normally get to see,” Joey Hernandez said.
The 2022 MCAS Miramar Air Show is free for visitors and continues Sunday, with gates opening at 8 a.m.
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