YUMA, Ariz. -- Station color guard Marines took the spotlight Jan. 28 at the Miss Yuma County Scholarship Pageant 2006 at the Historic Yuma Theatre in downtown Yuma, Ariz.
“I’ve done a few performances and every one is different,” said Lance Cpl. Eric Eskildsen, Search and Rescue crew chief and native of Phoenix. “For this particular event, we brought the colors through the crowd using two separate aisles. That is not what we usually do, but we make do with what we have and adapt and overcome.”
The Marines received a warm welcome from the beauties involved with the pageant.
“It was an honor to have the Marines help with the pageant this year,” said Stephanie Brooks, Miss Yuma County 2005. “It was a wonderful reminder, as they presented the colors of the freedoms we enjoy in our country.”
The Marines did more than just escort the colors during this particular performance. Sporting their dress blue uniforms, the Marines supported the pageant contestants on stage and backstage.
“This performance was more relaxed than some of the other ones I’ve done,” said Eskildsen. “We’re always serious when we do the color guard, but we also worked with the girls, so it was enjoyable too. I got to know a couple of the girls and I tried to keep them relaxed by telling them they were doing a good job.”
The Marines’ help didn’t go unnoticed.
“It was fun getting to know each of the guys. They were so great with the girls and made them laugh and calmed their nerves before the competition,” said Brooks. “Marines look so handsome in their dress blues and their presence added elegance to the evening wear. They also brought some excitement to my night by carrying me in on a surf board. It was definitely one of the highlights of my final day as Miss Yuma County.”
The surfboard escort was a hit with civilians and Marines alike.
“This was my first color guard performance, so I don’t know how much we typically get involved, but the coolest part of the night was when we carried Miss Yuma 2005 out onto the stage on a surfboard,” said Cpl. Johnny J. Gonzalez, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron legal assistance clerk and native of Pacoima, Calif. “I didn’t imagine myself carrying girls out on surfboards or even escorting them on stage. I would have to say this is an experience I won’t soon forget. When I was growing up, I would watch some of these pageants on TV, but I never imagined myself on stage with those beautiful women.
“To think that I almost went to Los Angeles and missed out on the opportunity to hang out with (Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap),” added Gonzalez. “She was a really beautiful and down-to-earth person.”
Just as Dunlap crowned the Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs, Brooks eventually had to crown her successor as well.
As the night came to a close, Marines shook hands with many of the Yuma residents and reflected upon the evening’s events.
“Being a part of the color guard gives us a chance to break bread with the community. It gives the community a better understanding of how we operate,” said Sgt. Nicolas Magallanes, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron barracks sergeant and station color sergeant. “We had an excellent time performing for the pageant. Where else are you going to be around the community’s finest young ladies?”
The station color guard ultimately aims to represent the Corps, said Magallanes.
“We usually respond to any color guard requests from any organization that goes through the station sergeant major,” said the Levelland, Texas native. “Whether it’s a parade, ground breaking ceremony, sporting event or a variety of events within the Yuma community or aboard the air station, we try to make it happen.”