FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – South Florida welcomes 2,500 sailors and marines as they land at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Monday for the 22nd annual Broward Navy Days Fleet Week.

The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard will spend the week in South Florida relaxing and performing community service.

The 22nd annual Fleet Week celebration kicked off with a party Wednesday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

It’s a special homecoming for Captain Bob Hein, commanding officer of the USS Gettysburg. He was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale and his parents still live here.

“They say you can’t go home again but coming home again on your own warship, just can’t get better than that,” Hein told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “Fort Lauderdale is a great town for the Navy. It’s a great town for sailors. We always love pulling in here because the town always takes good care of us.”

For the service members, Fleet Week is like Christmas vacation — a chance to relax and have a little fun.

They also hope to make a difference in the lives of South Floridians through various community service projects. Throughout the week the service members will speak at schools, spend time with veterans and volunteer at a food bank.

“I’m always about helping people — that’s one of the reasons why I did join the military — to help my country,” said U.S. Navy member Chandre Moore. “So, helping kids or helping people in the time of need makes me feel like a better person.”

The Navy sailed in to Port Everglades Wednesday morning. Two Guided Missile Cruisers — the Gettsyburg and the USS San Jacinto, a Coast Guard cutter — the Bernard Webber, a Frigate — the USS Dewert, a submarine and the USS Wasp, an Amphibious Assault ship docked Wednesday morning.

U.S. Marine Corporal Zach Holcombe said he looks forward to speaking to the public about his passion for the military.

“Having an opportunity to bring the Navy, Marine Corps down here and let the public see what we do firsthand and get out here with the people and meet the people, it’s awesome,” Holcombe said.

And several members of the public said seeing the Marines, sailors and members of the Coast Guard was an inspiration.

“These guys are giving up their free time to make us safe and that makes you feel good,” said Leonard Mack, who is visiting South Florida with his wife.

“(These are) young people sacrificing their life for our country,” said Eddie Bobo, who brought his two young sons to the Fleet Week party. “I am really proud of them.”

He’ll get no argument from Captain Hein, who said he can’t wait to introduce Fort Lauderdale to the 300 men and women under his command.

“It’s not all about material gain,” Hein said. “It’s not all about how far can I go. It’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons and that’s what these kids will show this town.”


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