BARSTOW World War II veteran Ferris Scott and other residents had gathered outside the Veterans Home in Barstow, blankets protecting them from the cold and flags in their fists. When the soldiers from Fort Irwin arrived on the facility's doorstep, Scott raised his hand in salute.

"I was younger than they are when I went in," Scott said, adding that he joined the U.S. Army at age 17 and served for about four years. "I'd do it all over again, but I'd stay in until I retired this time."

Three hundred soldiers from the National Training Center's 11th Armored Calvary Regiment marched to the beat of a military cadence across First Street Bridge, through Downtown Barstow, up Barstow Road to the Veterans Home. Eleven soldiers on horseback in replica uniforms from 1901 lead the way while wives, mothers and Barstow residents cheered.

Once they arrived at the home, the veterans and soldiers ate lunch together and spent time introducing themselves and talking. Calvin Phillips, president of the Association of the United States Army's High Desert chapter, presented the veterans with a check for $2,304. The money will be used for the home's morale, welfare and recreation fund, he said.

Originally the 11th ACR's march to the Veterans Home in Barstow began from Fort Irwin, said Col. Tony Aguto, the commanding officer of the 11th ACR. On the first day, soldiers would march from Fort Irwin and camp out at Owl Canyon Campground. They would do the final march to the Veterans Home the next day.

Officials with the 11th ACR plan to hold a two-day march from Fort Irwin to Barstow next year, Aguto said. The soldiers will march more than 40 miles.

On First Avenue near the bridge, Catherine Swearingen waited for her husband, Sgt. First Class Eric Swearingen, to pass by with his unit. Originally from Orange County, Catherine said her husband had participated in a similar march at Fort Riley, Kan. She said she's gone with her daughter who's in Girl Scouts to the Veterans Home.

"It's really neat that (the soldiers) are going up there," she said.

Felicia Golly and her son Travis waited for Spc. Gary Golly at Dana Park. Spc. Golly has been with the 11th ACR since 2008 and participated in last year's march, she said.

"I'm so proud," she said. "I'm absolutely very proud."

At the Veterans Home, Scott and Spcs. Tyler Slaton and Jeff Dotzler cracked jokes and told stories. He noted that the U.S. Army is much different today.

"They have new weapons and they're better trained," Scott said, referring to his experience in World War II. "We didn't have the time to train very much."

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