What do you do when 5,000 hungry Marines arrive at the Reno-Tahoe Airport on their way to– and from– the biggest Marine Reserve Corps training exercise in the United States? You find a way to feed them and give them shelter from the heat.
That's exactly what Perry DiLoreto, who heads the Nevada Military Support Alliance in Reno, decided to do when he heard that thousands of Marine Reservists would flow through our airport in July and August. "I just asked the Airport Authority if there was some way we could accomodate these people; a day room, some air conditioning, maybe a TV. We ended up putting up a TV, got the wi-fi network going. It grew from there."
DiLoreto called his friends at the Civil Air Patrol and the Reno Rodeo, and quickly got things rolling. "We started off with an ice chest full of water and fresh fruit and it's grown into a full-blown barbeque," he said. Local retailers donated food. The owners of the now-vacant Amelia's restaurant unlocked the doors and turned on the air conditioning.
Word got around, and people started showing up to help. I found Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick grilling hot dogs on a huge gas grill, while local businessman Fred Sibayan– a Marine himself– talked to the troops about the training they received in Nevada and Northern California.
Lance Corporal Jared Painter of Pennsylvania was amazed at the hospitality. "It's great," he said. " I can't believe everyone is so nice here." He also appreciated being able to train at The Hawthorne Army Weapons Depot and the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. "Where we went is how Afghanistan is, how Iraq is. Everyone says it's the best training we've ever had."
Operation Javelin Thrust brings Marine Reserve Units together from across the United States to train for possible future deployments. Lance Corporal Painter's Unit practiced transporting crews back and forth. "Driving up the mountains, hairpin turns. We did an IED course. You got to see what to look for," he explained.
Air Force Veteran Shawn Brewer of the Civil Air Patrol said the Marines have been very appreciative. "Last year they had nothing, so they were overwhelmed," she said.
Dick Gammick came out to show his appreciation. "When I came back from Vietnam we didn't have any thing like this. We need to show them our support," he said.
Local Dentist Joe Eberle tells me one Marine had tears in her eyes as she said thank you. "She gave me such a big, sincere hug," he said.
The Truckee Meadows Blue Star Moms baked homemade cookies, brownies and fudge, which were much appreciated by the troops. Member Paula Fleming says she'll remember this experience forever. And she believes the Marines will remember Reno. "They're going to go home, they're going to go to their families, to their communities and say 'You know what happened in Reno?' So that's going to stick with me for a long time." And now, thanks to dozens of hard charging volunteers, five thousand Marines know why "we love this place."