U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Malia Chasteen had one thought as she waited for Torrance’s 61st annual Armed Forces Day parade to begin on Saturday afternoon, May 20.
As she took in the scenes of families staking out their spots on sidewalks, banners festooned on light posts and military vehicles lined up along Torrance Boulevard, Chasteen felt inspired.
“Sign me back in,” she said.
But first, she had more pressing duties to attend to.
Mid-parade, Chasteen was promoted to a two-star officer, becoming the first African American woman to become Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“She’s big time and we’re so proud of her,” said Vince Patton, a retired master chief who flew in from Washington, D.C., for the occasion. “This is history.”
About 500 new recruits also took the oath of installation for all six branches of the United States Armed Forces Saturday in a rare public show led by the parade’s grand marshal, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Carola List.
The parade was the highlight of Torrance’s three-day celebration of the Armed Forces, which began Friday and returned in full for the first time in three years; it was nixed in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and then pared down last year. About 100,000 people were expected to attend the celebration over its three-day run.
Torrance boasts the nation’s longest running city-sponsored military parade – and it’s also one of the few sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Crowds lined Torrance Boulevard as the parade made its way from Crenshaw Boulevard to Madrona Avenue, waving at soldiers, sailors, World War II veterans and local politicians. They also gawked at military vehicles, cheered for marching units and horse regiments, and stared in awe at least three flyovers, from a B-25 bomber, three T-6 planes and a World War II-era PT-17.
This year’s honored service was the Coast Guard.
As such, Petty Officer First Class Andres Pulido, of Coast Guard Base Los Angeles/Long Beach, served as honorary grand marshal, while actor Beau Bridges, who served in the Coast Guard Reserve, was the celebrity grand marshal.
But the Coast Guard wasn’t the only military branch represented.
Gloria Diaz of Torrance said she was grateful for the VIP seats the Torrance Police Department reserved for her father Alberto Pacheco, 92, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
“His picture is on one of the banners here, too,” the proud daughter said, “and I wanted him to have this opportunity to see the parade.”
Her father repaired guns and other munitions in the frontlines of the Korean conflict. In 1962, with help from the Veterans Administration’s home loan program, Alberto Pacheco bought a house on Fiat Street in Torrance, where he and his wife, Marielena, raised their five children. He still lives there today.
“I’m very lucky,” he said. “As an American, I’m proudest that we have a chance to get ahead. Everything is here. We’ve done pretty good.”
Pacheco took photos with Lorry Rose Vaca, 92, who served in the Marines from 1950 to 1954, graciously commending her service – despite his Army loyalty.
Vaca lived in Torrance for more than 50 years before moving to Hawthorne. Many members of her family, including her children and grandchildren, participated in past Armed Forces Day Parades as part of the Junior ROTC, or their school marching bands.
“I’ve been to almost every parade,” Vaca said. “I love it. I get so excited seeing everything. It makes me feel very patriotic and connected to my community. And my favorite part every time? The Marines, of course!”
U.S. Air Force veteran and Torrance Treasurer Tim Goodrich, meanwhile, celebrated a small victory days before the parade: He tried on his old uniform, which he first wore 24 years ago – and it still fit. Goodrich wore the freshly dry-cleaned uniform as he rode a red convertible in the parade.
Goodrich, a 16-year Torrance resident, said the three-day celebration honoring the U.S. military was a chance to show pride in the Armed Forces and celebrate the community.
“It means a great deal of respect for our servicemembers, people coming together,” Goodrich said. “It’s an incredible honor.”
Goodrich’s son marched in the parade as a member of Cub Scout Pack 851. Sitting in the grandstand was Goodrich’s wife, who was expecting their second child in a few days.
Torrance’s soon-to-born newest resident, Goodrich said, won’t miss the festivities next year.
“We’ll bring her here for sure,” he said.
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