In a season of parades, the grandest one may just be the parade of majestic ships that sailed into the Narrows ushering in Fleet Week. The seven-day event is designed to salute the country’s military service vessels and highlight the accomplishments of those who serve on them.
Service members and their families gathered with community leaders, teachers and schoolchildren at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton, the only active military base in New York City, on Wednesday, May 22 to welcome the ships into New York Harbor.
Fleet Week, now in its 31st year, will last until May 28. The week includes dozens of family-oriented activities, including free tours of battleships.
Lieutenant Commander Sarah Brennan of the Coast Guard Sector of New York welcomed guests to the ceremony. She explained that there were more than 2,600 sailors, Marines and Coast Guard members participating this year and that New York City has hosted Fleet Week nearly every year since 1984.
“Fleet Week is an opportunity for citizens of New York City and the surrounding tri-state area to see firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services,” said Brennan. “Everyone is invited to tour all the ships docked in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island throughout the week.”
And then the majestic ships began their procession.
Twelve vessels, including five U.S. Navy ships, three U.S. Coast Guard cutters, four U.S. Naval Academy Yard Patrol boats, one Military Sealift Command ship and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels sailed past Fort Hamilton and then traveled underneath the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge on their way up the harbor to dock at Manhattan piers for the week-long stay.
Leading the parade was fireboat Three Four Three, courtesy of the New York City Fire Dept., named in honor of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. It is also the country’s largest fireboat.
The Motor Vessel Hayward, whose primary mission is debris removal in New York Harbor, followed behind the fireboat. Next in line was the USS Milwaukee, the third freedom-class littoral combat ship and the fifth ship to be named in honor of the city of Milwaukee.
Following the Milwaukee was the USS Jason Dunham, named after Medal of Honor recipient and New York native Corporal Jason Dunham. The Coast Guard cutter Campbell was next before the flagship USS New York made her entrance.
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 New York. It’s the sixth ship of the US Navy to be named after the state of New York and is one of three warships named to honor 9/11 victims, alongside the USS Arlington and the USS Somerset.
Other ships in the procession included the United States Coast Guard Cutter Lawrence Lawson, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Glace Bay, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Katherine Walker, training vessel Kings Pointer and the USS Tornado, which was followed by four United States Naval Academy patrol boats.
Closing out the parade was the fireboat John Jay Harvey.
Following the ceremony, the colors were presented by the Fort Hamilton High School JRROTC. In addition, guests were treated to performances by the Xaverian High School Band and the James Madison High School Band. Other schools attending the event were P.S./I.S. 229, P.S./I.S. 104, P.S. 264, I.S. 259 William McKinley, Holy Angels Catholic Academy and Fontbonne Hall Academy.
Fort Hamilton Army Base commanding officer Col. Andrew Zieseniss was delighted with the ceremony. “You couldn’t ask for a better day to watch the parade of ships in arguably the best location in New York City and to see them pass through here,” said Zieseniss.
“It’s also a fantastic opportunity for us to connect all our military services with the local community,” he went on. “It’s a terrific day and I look forward to the events over the next couple of days here in New York City.”
For more information on Fleet Week events, visit fleetweeknewyork.com.