Two local veterans and two U.S. Marines from the Twentynine Palms Marine Base were honored at the Fourth Annual Veterans Expo today at the Riverside County Fairgrounds.
The expo also provided vets with essential information on finding jobs, housing and health care. But the government shutdown left a noticeable mark on the event.
Sergeant Brett Ader of the U.S. marines was honored for his service today by the largest veterans expo in the valley.
"It's awesome, it's even more of a privilege to be around the veterans themselves, those guys have all kinds of stories," Ader said.
But the government shutdown made the day a little less festive.
By order of the Department of Defense, the sergeant had to attend as a civilian, meaning he could not wear his iconic blue Marine uniform.
"I'm in a suit. I wish I could have been in my uniform, it would have been a lot better," Ader said.
"What they're doing in Washington, should not affect these young Marines," said retired U.S. Army soldier Patrick Runyon.
And veterans not donning their uniforms wasn't the only setback.
Expo organizers had to scramble at the last minute to fill gaps in the event's programming.
"It's disappointing because we don't have all the things here that we wanted to," said Bill Young, one of the event's organizers.
Among the lineup missing from today's expo:
The California National Guard show band couldn't perform, a guest speaker from D.C. couldn't attend, and the Marine Color Guard was absent, rendering thousands of programs incorrect.
"But you learn in the military to make adjustments as you go. To see the crowd come out you can't be too disappointed," Young said.
Vets from every branch of the military were still able to meet with service providers and get guidance on benefits.
"Here you can come to one place and learn about all those benefits at one time and sign up for many of them," Young said.
And the expo addressed one of the biggest issues facing young veterans: jobs.
"It's helpful to have someone tell you what you're capable of and where you can apply that," Ader said.
"You couldn't find a better person to hire than a veteran," Runyon said.