STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) participated in the 98th annual Forest Avenue Memorial Day Parade as part of a community outreach event during Fleet Week New York (FWNY), May 30.
Thousands of residents lined the parade route, shouting words of thanks and waving American flags as Sailors led a procession of service members, veterans' organizations, city officials, marching bands and ROTC students through Staten Island in a symbol of tribute and respect for fallen service members.
Seaman Aaron Baker, a native of Tampa, Florida said walking in the parade was a great honor for him. Baker's great grandfather, 2nd Lt. Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler, was a member of the prestigious Tuskegee Airmen during World War II who aided in battling racial barriers in post-war Florida.
"Essentially, I am walking in honor of him," said Baker. "I am very grateful to be a part of something bigger than myself [which] honors those who served and sacrificed."
The United Staten Island Veterans Organization, which is composed of 20 veteran service organizations, sponsors the annual event and selected its parade grand marshal from one of the service organizations. This year, the honor was bestowed upon retired Senior Chief Electronics Technician James Brown, president of the Fleet Reserve Association, Branch 226, who graciously greeted the Sailors as they arrived.
"This is a very tight community and to have the support of our military, especially my fellow shipmates, year after year is very special to us," Brown explained. "Marching in this parade, for the military, should be a matter of pride to us all."
Parade organizer James Haynes IV, commander, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic War Vets, Post 1934, has been assisting with the parade for six years. He said he is always happy when Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen come out to show their support and talk with the veterans.
"It's an honor and privilege to have so many active-duty [service members] come out and support, not to mention the support of the reservists and retirees," Haynes explained. "This is what Memorial Day is all about. This is our way to honor those who have sacrificed their lives in our armed forces. We also get a chance to celebrate those who have taken the oath to follow in their brave footsteps, putting their lives on the line for us."
The annual Forest Avenue Memorial Day Parade is one of the various events sea service members attended during Fleet Week.
FWNY is the city's celebration of the sea services and provides an opportunity for the citizens of New York City and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services.
For up-to-date information on all Fleet Week events, visit the official Fleet Week New York website at http://www.fleetweeknewyork.com/, "Like" FleetWeekNewYork on Facebook, and "Follow" @FleetWeekNYC on Twitter.
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For more news from Commander, Navy Region Mid Atlantic, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnrma/.