INDIO, Calif. - While Brandon Gonzalez will be heading home for Christmas, the Marine said he felt right at home in Indio this weekend.
"I'm honored to have served my country, and to have people acknowledge it," Gonzalez said. "It's nice to see other veterans and people actually support us. It's really nice. It makes us feel better about ourselves."
Gonzalez was one of more than five dozen Marines from the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base treated to a Christmas dinner and gifts at an annual party hosted by VFW Post 3699 and Auxiliary Board.
"My husband was a veteran, [he] spent years in Vietnam," VFW Post 3699 Auxiliary President Alleca Pierson said. "Most of our friends are veterans, and they have gone overseas. We have grandchildren that our in the service. It's just very dear to our hearts."
Veterans said the party goes a long way, especially for those who can't make it home for the holidays.
"I missed two Christmases, '49 and '50," Marine Veteran Lester O'Neil said. "And then, when I was in the Corps, I missed it with family."
While those enjoyed gifts and a warm holiday meal, organizers said the warmest feeling was making sure everyone felt at home for the holidays.
"Just like every veteran, these marines have written a check to our country, payable to and up to, including their lives," VFW Post 3699 Post Commander Michael Pierson said. "They don't know what's in store for them when they're sent in harm's way. Thank you for taking the fight to our enemy. And to all of those who've already served, you're a part of our veteran community. Come and join us, and we love you."
State Senator Jeff Stone presented the Piersons with certificates of appreciation for the annual Christmas party.
The Piersons said they'll be visiting VA Loma Linda later this month to deliver goodie bags.