Red, white and blue balloons filled Marine View Middle School's gymnasium, and the colors were echoed throughout on banners hung on every surface.
Students mimicked their surroundings in patriotic-colored clothes, waving miniature American flags and holding signs spelling out "thank you" up high.
"There were no other colors at our school today," said Melissa Applebee, 13.
The gymnasium was decked out in all things patriotic for a welcome-home event for nine members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, who recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan. City and school board officials, veterans in the American Legion Post 133 and members of the Huntington Beach Fire and Police Departments came out to thank the Marines with the students.
"It's with great honor and pride that I welcome you to Marine View Middle School, where patriotism is alive and well," said Principal Roni Ellis.
The celebration was a surprise for the Marines, who were taken to a lunch at a residence in Huntington Harbour and then told they were going to talk to a class, said Dave Sullivan, the 3/1 Marines Foundation's chairman.
"I deceived them a bit," he said.
The Marines walked into the gymnasium to a standing ovation of clapping and feet stamping that turned into a deafening cheer. They were brought up to the gym's stage, where the school gave them three rounds of "oorah."
"It was a really nice surprise," said Lance Cpl. Ivan Davis. "It's really nice to see that Americans are still really supportive of us."
The foundation is dedicated to supporting the "Thundering Third" stationed in Camp Pendleton. The City Council voted to adopt the battalion in 2005 when they felt patriotism post-9/11 was dropping and people weren't showing their appreciation for the sacrifices servicemen and women were making, Sullivan said.
"We said 'Huntington Beach is different,' and it has turned out that way," he said.
Sullivan came up with the idea for the event to help boast the Marines' morale after losing 13 of their own overseas, and Marine View pulled it together in about 10 days.
Students sang patriotic songs, performed a cheer written just for the Marines and did a dance to "Stars and Stripes Forever" that ended with about a dozen girls dropping into the splits and saluting.
Everyone in the school came together to contribute — Associated Student Body, the dance and cheer teams, and every club. It was fun pulling it together, Melissa said.
"I'm positive it was all worth it," she said. "I know a lot of people don't understand all the sacrifices they make, but Marine View certainly does."