BARSTOW The holiday season may be over for most people, but not for soldiers in Fort Irwin's 11th Armored Calvary Regiment or the residents at the Veterans Home.

About 300 soldiers from the National Training Center will be bussed to the Harvey House, march across the First Street Bridge, through downtown Barstow and up Barstow Road to the Veterans Home Friday to have lunch and visit with its residents.

"Everybody really enjoys participating in this and getting a chance to spend some time with veterans," said Lt. Robert Mark, public affairs officer for the 11th ACR, which trains military units from other parts of the country. "We were unfortunately unable to participate before Christmas, but we're happy to get it still in the holiday season and continue this tradition."

The Association of the United States Army's High Desert chapter, which is sponsoring the march, will use it as an opportunity to raise funds for the veterans, said Calvin Phillips, president of the High Desert AUSA chapter. Last year AUSA raised $4,000 for the Veterans Home.

The soldiers' yearly march began 14 years ago. At that time the soldiers would begin their journey at Fort Irwin, camp out and reach the Veterans Home the next day, covering a distance just shy of 40 miles, Phillips said. When Fort Irwin became a deployment center, the march was changed to a one-day event with the soldiers bussed to Barstow.

The march was much bigger when it was a two-day event. Because of that, next year the commanding officer for the 11th ACR has said the regiment will resume its two-day march from the National Training Center to the Veterans Home, Mark said.

"He felt the march warrants participation enough to dedicate that much time to it," he said. "So we're excited to do that again next year."

Once the soldiers begin marching up Veterans Parkway, most of the residents gather outside to greet them, said Denise Phillips, the home's standards compliance coordinator.

"They look forward to it because they have a common bond with what they used to do when they were in the military," she said. "They always enjoy it when we have active duty military come to visit the home."

The march begins at the Harvey House at 10 a.m. The Barstow Police Department will block motorist access to the First Street Bridge when the regiment crosses it and escort them to the Veterans Home.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com