FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Ahoy matey!
The 27th annual Fleet Week got underway Monday at Port Everglades.
Festivities kicked off at 6 p.m. with the “All Hands On Deck” party at Esplanade Park in Downtown Fort Lauderdale.
“I’m really ecstatic. I’ve never been to Florida. I’m pretty excited to be here in Fort Lauderdale, specifically. I know there’s a lot of nice beaches,” said Samuel Cervantes of San Antonio.
The party is for the public to welcome hundreds of service men and women.
World War II veteran Joan Muller showed up to support the troops.
“I’m very proud and I wish more young people would choose a couple of years in the military because it will be the saving of our country,” The 93-year-old said.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler was also on hand to thank the service members.
“We have a great lifestyle because of what you all are doing every single day on the watch for us,” he said.
This year’s event will be a bit smaller than previous years because a destroyer, two cruisers and a submarine that were scheduled to visit canceled due to the global security situation and fiscal constraints.
Even then, supporters were out in full force.
“I didn’t expect this many people to come here and to say thank you,” said Brook Hunter, who is from upstate New York.
This year’s ships are the USS New York, an amphibious transport dock, and three Coast Guard cutters – USCGC Forward, USCGC Margaret Norvell, and USCGC Joshua Appleby.
Made partly of steel from the rubble of the World Trade Center, the USS New York was being built in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Her bones hold a lot of history, history that’s not lost on the men and women who serve on the ship.
“They understand their mission is not just for the United States Navy, it’s also to carry the mantle of what happened on 9/11,” said Rear Admiral Roy Kitchener, Commander of Expeditionary Stryker Group two.
During the course of the week, the 500 or so sailors, marines and Coast Guard personnel who are visiting will take part in a number of events including a golf tournament, a fishing tournament, luncheons, and community outreach projects and challenges.
“The crew is excited, I mean from the top all the way down. Everybody is so excited to be here because you know when we pull in overseas it’s really interesting and really unique but when we get to pull into Florida and United States of America the reception that weekend is just wonderful,” said Lt. Michael Hatfield, with the Expeditionary Stryker Group two.
“I can remember coming here as a young officer and always had a good time,” said Kitchener.
Rear Admiral Kitchener said the week is also about engagement and education.
“Educate the public on what we provide them, what we do, what we’re out and about doing in the world is a Navy which, as you know, these days is quite a bit,” said Kitchener.
Many of this week’s events are free and open to the public. A complete schedule of events can be found at BrowardNavyDaysInc.org.