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Four of us made the trip: Marine founder and CEO Tracy Della Vecchia; outreach coordinator Babs Blackmon; graphic artist and photographer Joe Mitchell; and writer and photographer Joe Mc Cune.
We set up our informational tent near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and dove headfirst into the fourth annual Marine Week.
At the parks entrance, an M1A Abrams tank was positively crawling with kids (and more than a few adults, too), its cannon pointed toward downtown Cleveland.
A few yards away stood a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
About, that is, because theres still one aircraft left: the AV-8A Harrier. Except for the jets, the tens of thousands of Marine Week visitors could get a hands-on feel for the equipment that help make our Marines the finest fighting force on the planet. After the martial arts, working dogs, Marine Corps Band and Silent Drill Platoon displays and a one-hour wait in the concession stand line to get water, the invasion started with four Recon Marines parachuting into Burke Lakefront Airport.
Able to take off vertically like a helicopter and with a top speed of 662 mph, the Harrier is to ground support what the Osprey is to troop transport. The invasion The Marines didnt just invade Cleveland during Marine Week, they invaded Cleveland on Saturday, showing 20,000 30,000? Tiny specks in the sky when they jumped, they landed one after the other in a swale between runways.
From one end to the other, weapon on their right shoulder, slowly they marched.
We could hear them coming before they reached the park, a growling whistle that Dopplered out in front of the jets; with a top speed of Mach 1.8 (nearly twice the speed of sound), the ride probably felt like a leisurely stroll to the pilots, but it was plenty fast watching from the ground.
Add Cobras and Hueys and Super Stallions and the KC-130 transport plane, and you have about the whole of the mock invasions air wing.
According to the Marine Corps website Marines.mil, about 750 Marines were present in Cleveland during the weeks festivities of community, country and Corps.
At least 750, because they were everywhere, downtown and all over town, in desert camouflage, in dress blues, in dress blue trousers with tan blouses.