NEW YORK—New York City feels like the safest city in the country thanks to the presence of an extra nearly 6,000 sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen from the United States and foreign military units who are in town for the annual Fleet Week through May 30.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the city hosting Fleet Week. With 21 Navy ships now docked around the city, Fleet Week is a time for citizens to celebrate the men and women in today’s active military sea services.
For the service members, many of whom are recently returning from tours in Afghanistan or Iraq, Fleet Week allows them to taken in the sights and sounds of the city. For some it is their first time in the “Big Apple.”
“Getting to come out here, for something like this, which most of us have never experienced, it is great. It is a check in the box for me because I have been in [the Marines] for a while and have never done anything like this,” Marine Sgt. Zachary Mendenhall said at Battery Park on Friday.
Marine 1st Lt. Michael Haft added, “It is a great opportunity for some of the young Marines from Middle America and other small towns to come see New York and interact with New Yorkers and show off the Navy-Marine team.”
Sgt. Mendenhall and 1st Lt. Haft returned from Afghanistan this past Christmas Day after a seven-month deployment in the Helmand Province in the Nawa District.
Fleet Week includes demonstrations of service members parachuting into combat, a glimpse into life on a Navy ship, and a chance to meet active service members in events throughout the city.
This firsthand look at military life also gives recruiters a prime opportunity to make their pitch.
“We are accessing the whole entire world because a lot of people visit here,” Marine Sgt. Jin Hyun Lee, Marketing Public Affairs representative of recruiting station NY said at Battery Park on Friday. “It is a chance for us to show the public who we really are and the many facets of the Marine Corps.”
Sgt. Mendenhall and 1st Lt. Haft were demonstrating Marine Corps Martial Arts maneuvers, while their fellow Marines let onlookers hold display weapons, sit in a Humvee, and test how many pull-ups they could do.
“It is a very interactive environment. That is No. 1. We want the public to have as much access as possible,” Sgt. Lee said.
While the martial arts displays are technically work for 1st Lt. Haft, showing civilians what he loves to do on a beautiful sunny pier is a welcome change of pace.
“I love hanging out with the kids. We are usually holed up in small, dark, dank places training hard, and it is refreshing to see these young people,” Haft said.
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