After missing a year due to sequestration, Fleet Week returns to New York Harbor. Now in its 26th year, the annual celebration of military sea services embraces its mission of lighting up the city that never sleeps with military band concerts, aerial demonstrations, sports tournaments, Memorial Day parades and showcases of the latest maritime technology.
As always, the public is invited for guided tours of docked ships. This year, three U.S. Navy and two U.S. Coast Guard vessels are open, including the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing USS Oak Hill, “keeper of New York Harbor” cutter Katherine Walker and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cole, which gained notoriety during the suicide attack in October 2000 that killed 17 U.S. Navy crew members and injured 39.
Onshore, festivities kicked off Monday in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, where the 45-person Navy Band Northeast "Pops Ensemble" performed pop, jazz and patriotic favorites. Tuesday, they cross the Hudson to Manhattan for an afternoon performance in Bryant Park.
A far more solemn re-enlistment and promotion ceremony takes place Friday at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which opens fully to the public for the first time that same day. This year's ceremony also commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive.
The Navy’s most important resource, its service men and women, numbering near 1,500 this year, also get some well-deserved R & R during the week. For many, Fleet Week marks a return home; for others, it's a highly anticipated first visit to the city of legend.
Either way, the excitement is palpable for these eight service members, who told Metro about what they're looking forward to seeing and doing this week in NYC:
EM1 Claudia Howard (Electrician's Mate 1st Class)
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
"Even though I was raised in New York, I never took advantage of the sights. What I'm looking forward to is visiting the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty. Being in NYC for Fleet Week and being able to wear your uniform to represent the military, there is no way that you can't feel some pride for serving our country. What I enjoy most is how the people welcome you and are so grateful for your service."
ETSN Joshua A. Guritzky (Electronics Technician Fireman)
Hometown: Bridgewater, N.J.
"I'm looking forward to representing the Navy and the USS Oak Hill honorably and proudly to family, friends and the people of New York as I walk around the city. I have also volunteered to be part of the Jewish Community Memorial day event, which as a Jewish sailor is a big thing because there are not that many. I'll also be looking forward to getting a real pastrami sandwich on kosher rye smeared with deli brown mustard with a dill pickle and coleslaw — the same meal I ate right before heading off to go to boot camp more than a year ago."
YN3 Michael Ivanitsky (Yeoman Third Class)
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
"Mostly, I am looking forward to attending any military veteran's appreciation events, to show my support as current military generation for those who served before us and especially those who paid the ultimate price for our country. I hope to visit 9/11 National Memorial as a symbol of the United States strength and unity even during such tragic events."
LS2 Terry Bynum (Logistics Specialist Second Class)
Hometown: Wilson, N.C.
"I am excited to see New York City lights, all the diversity New York has to offer, and be able to represent the United States Navy and USS COLE at Fleet Week New York."
SN Ryan Weeks (Seaman)
Hometown: Houston, Texas
"I'm most looking forward to visiting the Statue of Liberty during Fleet Week because it is a national treasure, the symbol of New York and the beacon of freedom that the U.S. provides."
EN1 Nicholas G. Lutze (Engineman First Class)
Hometown: Jacksonville, N.C.
"The best part of going is most definitely the people. I had a fantastic time talking to all the people of New York, who made me feel good to be a sailor and welcome in their city. This is the best port, hands down, that I have been to in my 13 years of service."
HTC (SW/AW) Micheal Binley (Hull Technician Chief)
Hometown: Scandinavia, Wisc.
"My previous visit onboard USS Wasp in 2012 was my first experience to New York, let alone a Fleet Week. I took in my first Broadway performance and experienced a very entertaining meal at the Stardust Diner, where they actually made me get up and sing and dance with one of the waitresses. I was kind of disappointed not to get a call back. I will be eating there again this year maybe for a second chance."
ENS Kevin Darby (Ensign)
Hometown: Lancaster, Pa.
"[I'm] looking forward to seeing family and friends and going to Mets games. Also, it is a great opportunity to show off the ship to New York City."