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Flag welcomes home troops

In a show of support to servicemen and women stationed at Camp Pendleton, an official military ‘welcome home’ area was dedicated September 17 on the north side of East Mission Road near Rancho De Loma Road and Avo Drive.

The installation includes a pole displaying a large American flag, new plantings of native oaks and other vegetation and the ‘welcome home’ fence where troops’ spouses, friends and family members post signs welcoming back their loved ones.

“The patriotic area we see today is the product of our community working together,” said Bob Leonard, former director of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce. “Many people and organizations worked together to make this patriotic symbol a proud part of the Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton tradition.”

The dedication was attended by San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn; USMC Lt. Col. Samuel P. Pelham; representatives from the offices of Darrell Issa, Kevin Jeffries and Dennis Hollingsworth; members of community organizations; and local residents.

Master of ceremonies for the event was George Archibald, current president of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce. The National Anthem was sung by Sandra Kopitzke.

It was explained that day that support for the project came from the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, Keep Fallbrook Clean & Green, Save Our Forest and the County of San Diego.

Save Our Forest’s Jackie Heyneman said the project work took 10 months to complete and explained that all the organizations involved shared the same vision and blended it into a collaborative effort.

“Keep Fallbrook Clean & Green made the effort to gain permission for welcome home signs to remain for a short period of time on the county-owned fencing,” said Heyneman. “The partnership with the other groups allowed us to create this new green entry to Fallbrook with a flagpole to greet returning Marines of Camp Pendleton.”

“It was Jackie Heyneman’s idea to add native plantings to the site,” said Leonard. “She kept helping with the necessary permit process, tried to accommodate others and finally just pushed to get the project done.”

Leonard also recognized the efforts put forward by Anne Burdick, Jedda Lorek and Judy Mitchell.

He said retired Fallbrook/Bonsall County Road Station manager Paul Payton played a key role in “getting the county to pay for a couple of fences to prevent further trash dumping, car abandonment and more in the area.”

“Current Road Station staff members Pete Swenson and Garry Evans were great in assisting us get the permits to place both the plantings and flag on the county right-of-way,” said Leonard. “They are a great asset to the community all the time.”

More help arrived, Leonard said, when local contractor Ron Chesney “jumped in to help get it done, organized and operated equipment to drill a six-foot by three-foot hole for the flagpole between the native plantings so it would feature the best view from both directions on East Mission.”

Leonard said Fallbrook Equipment Rentals supplied concrete for the project and Rondoe Electric installed solar lighting so the flag could be illuminated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At the dedication ceremony, Chamber of Commerce member Debby Cossart stepped forward and offered to help pay some of the cost for the lighting.

Save Our Forest will continue the care needed for the native plant material to get established and the Chamber of Commerce is setting up a fund to which residents can make contributions that will be used to maintain the installation, Heyneman said.

Heyneman explained that when Camp Pendleton Marines return from overseas, it is typically via March Air Force Base in Riverside County. Upon seeing the ‘welcome home’ area on East Mission Road, only a few miles remain until they reach Camp Pendleton.

“This ‘welcome home’ area recognizes the men and women of our military for their years of service protecting our country and its citizens from harm,” said Leonard. “From the beginning of the United States of America, the flag has been the most recognized and honored symbol of what America represents: a county where citizens will defend their freedoms now and for the future… too often paying for our freedoms with their lives.”

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