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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Fleet Marine Force Training Base"

Retired Marine reminiscences during Gaslamp cattle drive

By Lance Cpl. Desiree D King | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | June 3, 2017

San Diego awoke to 200 head of cattle ambling through the historic Gas Lamp District June 3, 2017. The herd was driven through the narrow streets by teams of cattle dogs and almost 50 riders on horseback, Brigadier General Kevin J. Killea, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, included.

The cattle drive, an event which hasn’t been seen in the area in over a century, commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Gas Lamp District. It also helps kick-off the San Diego County Fair, an agricultural tradition that has persisted, in various forms, since its inception in the 1800s.

Camp Pendleton Marines have long been a part of San Diego’s agricultural heritage as well, and the cattle drive brought back fond memories for one of the riders, retired Marine, Arthur “Art” DiGrazai.

“When I came back from Vietnam, I worked at the base stables and rodeo grounds of Camp Pendleton,” he said. “I was a wrangler and later became the NCOIC. We had a fantastic time.”

Although Camp Pendleton’s rodeo grounds have since been closed, Stepp Stables continues to offer trail rides as well as boarding to the base, and herds of grazing cattle are not an uncommon sight.

Art, who cared for the legendary war horse Staff Sergeant Reckless while stationed at the base, is glad to see that Camp Pendleton and the San Diego County Fair are keeping their history alive.

“It’s pertinent to the area, it’s where we come from. This is a piece of the Old West for your very own," he said.