By Kathy Day
Scripps Health and Med Asset officials found an unusual way to say thanks to donors who raised more than $157,000 to honor the Marines of Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. They invited drill instructors to teach them to “Eat like a Marine — and then “treated” guests to a tasting of military rations.
Chris Van Gorder, ScrippsHealth CEO and president, told the audience that he and others — including Dr. Michael Sise a battle-trained surgeon who works at Scripps Mercy — wanted to find a way to welcome home the 3/5 Darkhorse Battalion. The unit, which returned in April after seven months in Sanqin, Afghanistan, sustained more losses than any other unit serving in Afghanistan over the last 10 years.
They came up with the idea of raising money so the battalion and family members could celebrate at a Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Las Vegas, and Thursday’s gathering was to salute those who joined the effort, which will include finding additional ways to support the 3/5.
Joe Greskoviak, a president of one of Med Assets divisions, captured the sense of the event when he said, “I am humbled by the dedication and service of our men and women.”
While the words of those on the program — including Capt. Matthew Peterson who commanded the 3/5 on deployment — spoke of the commitment and sacrifice of the Marines, the efforts they gave to secure the Afghanistan town and the losses the 3/5 suffered, it was a video compilation showing their time on deployment that moved the crowd. Some dabbed tears from their eyes, others sat up a little straighter, all while about a dozen young Marines sat quietly watching the scenes that surely hit home.
At its conclusion, there was a sustained standing ovation.
The mood lightened considerably when the stage was turned over to drill instructors Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Zapata and Gunnery Sgt. Fernando Rafael. Immediately they stepped off the stage into the faces of VanGorder and the other executives in the front row.
With certain commands of, “I’m looking at you … Answer me… Do YOU understand,” they “taught” them how to open, “warm” and eat a meal of cheese and crackers, pound cake and the main ration.
“Start enjoying your crackers … you will enjoy your crackers,” Zapata shouted. “Do you understand?”
The response came from the entire crowd: “Yes sir.”
And guests in the Schaetzel Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital were “treated” to a sampling of MREs. At each station, a young Marine seemed to enjoy the moment of handing a sample to executives, guests and Scripps staffers who tasted such rations as vegetarian (supposedly) lasagna to pork ribs. Noses turned up and chuckles were heard all around — along with sincere expressions of gratitude for the men’s service to their country.
The other speakers were Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, Commander of Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, himself a former Marine.