SAN DIEGO — Florida Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis visited Coronado Sunday for a veterans appreciation event.

DeSantis made remarks to a packed Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, which is just steps away from where DeSantis was stationed and where he returned home from war. 

“I’ll never forget flying back from Iraq landing at Naval Air Station North Island, right on the corner there,” DeSantis said. 

The Florida governor discussed the need to control the fentanyl crisis and his concern for a decline in military strength, something that hits close to Coronado residents. 

We are not in a position to be able to defend this country from threats posed by China,” he said. 

DeSantis’ visit comes ahead of the second Republican presidential debate on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Several campaigns have said they’ve satisfied the marks to participate in Wednesday’s debate, including DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Vice President Mike Pence. Former President Donald Trump missed the first debate and plans to meet with current and former union workers in Michigan instead of attending the second debate. The attendance of North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, both of whom participated in the first debate, is uncertain for the second.

The GOP, however, has yet to confirm the qualified participants for the second debate.

This week, a CNN/University of New Hampshire poll showed the Florida governor dropped 13 points in the critical early state, trailing candidates Ramaswamy, Haley and Christie. 

A stellar performance from DeSantis in Wednesday’s debate could give him the boost he needs in the polls.

The Associated Press and FOX 5’s Zara Barker contributed to this story.