For 27-year-old Ryan Safran, a U.S. Marine who completed two tours of Afghanistan, the outpouring of support from the Long Beach community last weekend was overwhelming. Safran, a Maryland resident, had never been to New York before, and said the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center played a role in his decision to join the military.
“To actually come out here to where it kind of all started in 2001, and to be able to see how New York has flourished since that happened, and all the support that’s here is just beyond … all these people who come out and thank us for our service — It’s amazing,” he said.
Safran was among the 29 service members who came to Long Beach with their families for a week of vacation and activities as part of this year’s Long Beach Waterfront Warriors program. The organization gives severely wounded and ill servicemen and women the chance to take a vacation with their families from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where the soldiers are undergoing medical treatment and rehabilitation.
This year’s activities for the 65 troops and family members, who arrived on July 25, included last Sunday’s 5K Race for the Soldiers, followed by the annual Welcome Parade, where thousands of people lined West Beech Street to cheer the soldiers on. The parade stepped off at Ohio Avenue and finished at New York Avenue, and was followed by a barbecue at Long Beach Catholic Regional School.
The LBWW also organized boat rides, fishing and beach outings, swimming, surfing lessons, jet-ski rides, a trip to New York City, and a Mets game, among other activities. The annual trip is supported by the local community through fundraisers — including a major event at Lola’s in May — with many residents volunteering their time with transportation, accommodations and assistance during the scheduled activities.