Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) pose for a photograph in Times Square while on liberty. The 20th annual Fleet Week New York is an opportunity for New Yorkers to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and thank them for their service. Fleet Week honors the service and sacrifice of all Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as the city of New York, in the global war on terrorism. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riza Caparros, Fleet Public Affairs Center
Sailors and Marines in New York for Fleet Week May 23-30 took advantage of the sights, sounds and hospitality the city extended to them.
Fleet Week New York City 2007 is the 20th annual event of its kind. This year there is a presence of five ships, including multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) moored at Manhattan’s Pier 90; and guided-missile cruisers USS Hue City (CG 66) and USS San Jacinto (CG 56), guided missile frigate USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29), guided missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and USS Oscar Austin
(DDG 79), and Coast Guard cutter Katherine Walker moored at Staten Island’s Stapleton Pier.
Lt. j.g. Luke Vogel, information warfare officer on board Winston S. Churchill said Fleet Week is a great for the Sailors.
“It's definitely increasing morale,” said Vogel. “There's a day-to-day life on the ship and that can get very tedious. This is very important for morale in general, to get out in the community and do some events that are more relaxed than heaving lines and other shipboard operations.
Manhattan resident Matthew Sheller said the military presence in town is good for the city.
“I think it's encouraging having the [Sailors and Marines] here in town,” said Sheller. “I think sometimes New York needs a rejuvenation of American spirit.”
Community relations events were among the activities Sailors and Marines could participate in during Fleet Week. “Project Hope," a church-sponsored organization providing resources, counseling and food to inner-city children and their families, hosted an event that gave Sailors a chance to get involved with the local community.
“I think it's really important for [the Sailors] to integrate themselves in a community and see a little bit more of the world,” continued Vogel. “It's good for them to get exposed to other areas of the country, and it’s really good for the public to see a positive side of the military.”
Other events bringing the Sailors out into the community included a softball tournament with participating elements from all the Fleet Week ships, trips to national television shows such as Late Night with David Letterman and Good Morning America. Landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and bus tours of the city were offered free of charge to those service members who visited them in uniform during Fleet Week.
Wasp Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class Ludwin Salazar, said he was surprised by the warm reception he’s received from the locals.
“I can feel the appreciation the people of New York feel for the armed forces for the sacrifices we’ve been making while we’re fighting the war,” said Salazar.
“I’ve spent my off-duty days getting to know the city,” continued Salazar. “I did a lot of walking around, seeing the sites at Ground Zero, I went to the Statue of Liberty and ate at some great restaurants.”
From the perspective of a service member and a New York native, Chief Intelligence Specialist (AW/PJ) Lawrence Brown, Office of Naval Intelligence, said it gave him a great sense of pride having the Navy in his home town.
“This is my home,” said Brown. “It's nice to see the welcoming response from the people of the city. So to my shipmates, I say, ‘welcome to my back yard’”.
Brown also said he hopes the positive attitude toward the military continues once the ships leave New York.
“I think it's important that the city realizes that we are still at war and the people of New York see that it's not a war without faces,” Brown continued. “And I hope they will continue to remember us - we're real, we are protecting our country with pride, but please remember us.”
More than 3,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are estimated to be in the New York metropolitan area for Fleet Week.