It was a patriotic kind of day Friday at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station at Miami Opa-locka Executive Airport — about to lead into an extraordinarily patriotic weekend in Miami Beach.
“The chance that we’re going to have to inspire the next generation of people to join the world’s greatest military is going to happen in the next couple of days,’’ boomed Air Force Major Gen. Garrett Harencak, head of recruiting, in a voice so loud that it might rival a nearby fighter jet. “Tomorrow and Sunday you are going to see some awesome weapon systems — the greatest weapon systems ever built to defend the greatest nation that has ever existed.’’
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The inaugural Air and Sea Show, presented by Hyundai as part of the “National Salute to America’s Heroes in Miami Beach,” is free and will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The event will showcase some mighty impressive miltary hardware: the B-2 Stealth Bomber, B-1 Lancer Bomber, B-52 Stratofortress Bomber, among other munitions.
Ocean events will include watercraft racing, power boating, and a Coast Guard search-and-rescue demonstration in which a swimmer will plunge into the water from a helicopter and simulate a rescue.
Before the festivities were set to begin, however, about 300 young men and women were sworn in Friday to their branches of service — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff and four-star general Stephen Wilson conducted the ceremony.
“Let me tell you what I have learned in my 37 years in the United States Air Force,’’ Harencak said before introducing Wilson. “The greatest weapon system does not come with a tail number. It doesn’t come with a serial number stamped on it. The greatest weapon system we have comes with a Social Security number. And ladies and gentlemen, you see them right over there,’’ he said, pointing to the 300 recruits sitting in one area of a giant hangar.
The recruits stood up and pledged to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.’’ The crowd rose, cheering and applauding the new soldiers.
Leonardo Spacca, a slight, soft-spoken young man, was one of the Army recruits who gave his pledge.
“I’m going to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on July 3rd for basic training,’’ said Spacca, still a senior at Miami Senior High. “I want to serve my country. I’m really excited to go. I’m ready. I’ve been ready. Today was one of the best moments of my life.’’
Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Kelly said he has been in the military for 13 years and hasn’t “ever seen a joint-service swearing-in ceremony. It brings us all together. What a cool way to bring in our recruits.’’
Spectators can meet and talk with the servicemen and women over the two-day event.
“This is about Memorial Day Weekend,’’ Wilson said. “This is about honoring those who sacrificed for our nation. Now you can come out and meet the people who operate and maintain and defend our country every day.’’
If you go
The Air and Sea Show is Saturday and Sunday in Miami Beach, on the beach between 10th and 14th streets. The ocean events are from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The air events are from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There also will be a Kids Fun Zone on Ocean Drive between 12th and 13th streets, next to Lummus Park, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
For information, go to http://www.usasalute.com/