Fleet Week New York gets ready to set sail

After its disappointing absence last year, New York’s traditional Fleet Week is slated to make its return from May 21-27 in an effort to honor troops that sacrifice their lives for our nation’s freedom.

Chairperson of the Kings County Memorial Day Parade Raymond Aalbue is pleased to have Fleet Week return. Although he claims last year’s local parade didn’t suffer due to the absence of the storied tradition, he’s thrilled to have the ships and the active duty military return.

“We had other troops in the parade,” Aalbue recalled. “But it’s a sight to see, these young men and women on ships that come to harbor. Seeing them on the deck of the ship makes you feel good.”

The historic week is one that Brooklynites look forward to all year, not only to salute and mingle with over 1,500 heroic Sailors, Marines and Coast Guard personnel who will spend time in the neighborhood, but also to marvel at the ships that will stream through the Narrows and under the Verrazano Bridge on their way to berths on the Hudson River.

Aalbue is excited for the tradition’s return, which had been going strong since 1984 – with a hiatus last year after the government sequester thwarted the event.

“It’s great,” he enthused. “No doubt about it. It gives the community the opportunity to applaud their selfless service as they march down Third Avenue. It’s also an opportunity for men and women that served most recent conflicts to remember their comrades in arms who maybe didn’t make it back from battle. When they come down to Third Avenue, they’re representing their comrade and buddies they have.”

After the local parade, a luncheon is held for the troops. “We feed them and to talk to them, tell them we appreciate them,” said Aalbue.

In preparation for Fleet Week, the Fort Hamilton Army Base holds an official kick off, saluting the troops as they arrive. “We do it annually provided that Fleet Week is going on,” said fort Spokesperson Bruce Hill. “The amount of ships determine amount of guns we use to salute them through the Narrows.”

Fort Hamilton encourages all Bay Ridgeites and proud Americans to attend the patriotic event. “We invite as many people as possible, mostly students from neighborhood schools,” noted Hill. “Kids love it. Every year, it seems to be growing.”

The event is said to be an exciting moment for the children and their families once the ships arrive.

“It’s kind of like a fostering relationship we have with Fleet Week. We also invite dignitaries, who show up,” Hill said. “For quite some time, it’s been a great tradition. I’ve been here eight years and it’s been done it every year. It’s gone on even longer than that.”

Exhibits, military band concerts, ship tours and other activities will be held throughout the week. U.S. Navy participating ships will include Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) and Arleigh Burke-class Aegis-equipped guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) from Norfolk, Virginia, and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) from Mayport, Florida. In addition, there will be two Coast Guard vessels, the cutter Katherine Walker (WLM 552), the Keeper of New York Harbor from Bayonne, New Jersey, and cutter Campbell (WMEC 909) from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

“When you see young men and women who put lives on hold to serve country they volunteer, it makes you feel proud to be American,” Aalbue said. “We want to let them know you’re proud for what they are doing.”

For more information on Fleet Week activities, visit www.fleetweeknewyork.com or www.facebook.com/FleetWeekNewYork.

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