It was a beautiful day for a parade, as a parade of ships sailed into the Narrows ushering in Fleet Week. The seven-day event is designed to highlight the accomplishments and salute the country’s military service vessels.
Service members and their families, elected officials and community leaders gathered at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton, the only active military base in New York City, on Wednesday, May 23 to welcome the ships into New York Harbor. Fleet Week, now in its 30th year, will last until May 29. The week includes dozens of family-oriented activities, including free tours of battleships.
Guests at Fort Hamilton were treated to a performance by the U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team before Master of Ceremonies David Linder offered welcoming remarks. “Fleet Week is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services,” Linder said. “It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services.”
The Fort Hamilton High School JROTC presented the colors as kids from the Child Development Center (CDC) recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem was performed by the Xaverian High School Band and the invocation was delivered by Chaplain (LTC) Donald Ehrke.
Colonel Peter Sicoli, commanding officer at Fort Hamilton, made it a point to acknowledge all the school children at the ceremony. “I want to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all the teachers, principals, educators, and administrators that are in the audience here today,” Sicoli said. “It is my honor to have you join us. We can never thank you enough for your commitment to educating and developing our children, which we all know is not an easy task. Our nation’s future is in your hands.”
And then the majestic ships began their processional.
Eleven vessels, including warships, patrol boats and Coast Guard cutters, sailed past Fort Hamilton and then traveled underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on their way up the harbor to dock at Manhattan piers for the week-long stay.
As hundreds of people stood on Engeldrum Bluff to watch and wave at the sailors, soldiers from the fort fired an 11-gun salute in honor of the USS Arlington.
USS Arlington, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock whose homeport is Naval Station Norfolk, was commissioned in 2008 and has since traveled the world. She is the third naval ship to be named for Arlington, Virginia. According to United States Guard Lieutenant Commander Sarah Brennan, steel taken from the Pentagon after the September 11 attacks is displayed aboard in the ship’s museum.
Other ships in the processional included the USNS (United States Naval Ship) Maury and the HMCS (Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Moncton.
Brennan described the 350-foot-long USNS Maury as a Navy vessel built to advance knowledge of our ocean and of our planet. “The ship was commissioned in 2013 and it was named after Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury, the father of modern oceanography,” Brennan said.
HMCS Moncton was commissioned in 1998. It is one of the 12 maritime coastal defense vessels in the Royal Canadian Navy and is based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. “In November 2017, Moncton embarked with the U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment and intercepted a drug smuggling ship in the Caribbean seizing nearly 2000 pounds of cocaine,” Brennan said.
Sicoli was delighted with the turnout. “What a great six days it is going to be, with the Navy dispersing the fleet to all five boroughs and with the sailors and Marines getting to enjoy all that New York City has to offer, many for the first time,” Sicoli said.
“It’s beautiful weather and such a beautiful day with so many young children out here watching as the fleet comes in,” Assemblymember Peter Abbate told this newspaper. “I think it’s so fitting for Memorial Day weekend that we remember our past service men and women who gave so much for this country.”
For more information on Fleet Week events, visit fleetweeknewyork.com.