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Long Beach Waterfront Warriors parade honors vets

Spectators show their patriotism as they observe the

Spectators show their patriotism as they observe the Waterfront Warriors Parade in Long Beach. (July 22, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Near the surf and sand, the Stars and Stripes took center stage Sunday, as wounded service members of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were honored at a parade in Long Beach.

Hundreds of spectators, many waving mini American flags, gathered along a mile-long stretch of Beech Street for the annual Long Beach Waterfront Warriors parade.

Thirty-two wounded military members and their families rode in a caravan of convertibles and antique cars to receive what organizers called a "hero's welcome."

"It's the very least we can do to give back to them and make sure their service is not forgotten," said Jamie Lynch, one of the co-chairs of the event. "They stepped up to the plate, now it's our time to step up to the plate for them."

For the past four years, the Waterfront Warriors, a local nonprofit, has sponsored a weeklong trip to Long Beach for veterans and active-duty military personnel receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia.

This year the veterans visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, lunched with New York City firefighters and had their pick of surfing lessons and boat rides donated by Long Beach vendors.

"They've treated us like kings, it's been so great to feel the support," said Army pilot Joel Delgado, 42, who is being treated for an injury that blinded his right eye while he was serving in Iraq.

The parade has become a point of pride in the community, where year-round fundraisers are held to finance the trips, and many residents and local businesses dress their decks and front yards with American flags, welcome signs and red, white and blue bunting.

"This event really shows our camaraderie, not only as Americans but as a community," said Len Torres, Long Beach City Council president. He said the nonprofit has also rallied behind his son-in-law, who is serving in Afghanistan, by shipping care packages to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Amanda Horak, 32, brought her daughters Caitlyn, 8, and Julia, 5, to wave at the veterans in a show of support."It's important to give thanks and respect those who help us keep our freedoms," Horak said. "This is the least we can do."

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