By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Fort Hamilton kicked off Fleet Week as it saluted the Parade of Ships with an 11-gun salute and honored Memorial Day with another 21-gun salute in front of more than 1,000 schoolchildren and scores of soldiers from the various branches of the military Wednesday morning.
“The military and Air Force are big on traditions,” said Colonel Eluyn Gines, Fort Hamilton’s Garrison Commander. “Our traditions go all the way back to 1776. Today, the Navy and the Marines are going to open Fleet Week and we start with a salute to the ships that will be entering our city. It’s been a great tradition that we have been doing for so many years and even after we couldn’t do it last year, we are back again.”
Six ships entered the New York Harbor, three from the U.S. Navy, the USS Cole, the USS Oak Hill and the USS McFaul, two ships from the U.S. Coast Guard, the USACG Campbell and the USACG Walker, and one from the FDNY.
“It is customary for ships entering a friendly port to discharge a cannon to demonstrate that they were unloaded,” the morning’s narrator Giselle Rivera explained. “The rendering of gun salutes in odd numbers may be traced to the superstition that odd numbers were considered lucky.”
“Today we will honor the USS Cole with an 11-gun salute,” she said of the ship that was bombed by suicide attackers in October 2000. “We are glad that it is back in business.”
There were nearly 70 schools in attendance and, in addition to getting a day outside of the classroom, the children really enjoyed the display.
“I love going on field trips so this was good,” said third grader Randy Reyes from P.S. 503. “My favorite part was when they shot the guns and it was fun to see the ships.”
Principal James McKeon from St. Anselm, a former Marine, said that he used the opportunity to show off the military to his kids in a good light.
“The idea is that they see people that are serving our country,” McKeon said. “It's an opportunity, for an example, to see the young ladies that are serving because some of the students might not even know that women are involved in the military. So it's good to get them out here and expose them to this.
“Serving your country is a good thing and it gives them an opportunity to get out, play on the grass, listen to the band and see all the people.”
The six ships passed by the bluff near the Fort Hamilton Community Club while Lieutenant Commander Brian McSorly of the United States Coast Guard told the kids a little bit about each one. Afterward there were games for the kids to play and a magician to entertain before they served lunch. A few schools that got there early enough were able to tour the Harbor Defense Museum as well.
The ships will be in various parts of New York City all week and can be seen from any place with a view of the river. For more information on the Fleet Week events going on this week check out the Fleet Week website at www.fleetweeknewyork.com.