BARSTOW — Col. Joseph Clark looked around the room.
"It's awesome," he said.
"What a great opportunity for these guys. You know, young troopers, they really don't appreciate it until they talk to these guys (veterans) and (hear about ) the sacrifices."
Clark was looking at the soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, known as the Blackhorse Regiment, eating lunch inside the Barstow Veterans Home dining room with veterans of past wars. The soldiers marched from the dirt lot across the street from the Harvey House to the home Tuesday morning.
It was all part of the 20th annual Long Walk and Memorial March held every year since the Veterans Home opened its doors.
"They have the same stories. They have done the same things. They are the same people," Clark said of the room full of soldiers and residents of the veterans home.
Coby Petersen stood next to Clark, admiring the soldiers and veterans. He is the deputy secretary of California Veterans Homes.
"There is a tremendous amount of sacrifice in this room," Petersen said. "And it's really neat to see 18-, 19-, 20-year-old brand new soldiers sit down with a World War II vet, or a Korean War vet, or a Vietnam vet and talk about experiences.
"And what they find is that it's the same. It's no big difference. It's just a different time period in life. And I think what you find from these guys, is that when they leave, it changes them a little bit. ... You sit down with a Pearl Harbor survivor, I don't care who you are, it changes you."
Petersen said the Long Walk to the Veterans Home is an unique experience and said the residents at the home are thankful for the visit. And he believes the soldiers appreciate the visit as well.
"These guys are in the box (training area) 10 out of 12 months. It's rough. It's like being deployed. I think it's (Long Walk to home) nice for them and I think they look forward to it."
Command Sgt. Major Michael Stunkard said his men and women are honored to be part of the march.
"Just like the colonel said, we are all Blackhorse troopers today. These same retirees were soldiers, 20, 75 years ago," he said.
Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-957-0613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @mlambdispatch.