The thousands of sailors, Coasties and Marines who descend on New York City every year for Fleet Week are an awesome sight to behold on their own, but this year's confab of U.S. service members includes a uniquely powerful homecoming as well.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in 2016
Ask any sailor or Marine who has experienced New York Fleet Week firsthand about their experience, and the first reaction is likely to be a knowing smirk.
Fleet Week comes to New York City for the week surrounding the Memorial Day weekend every spring. Suddenly, a city that has almost no military presence is filled with sailors and Marines in uniform.
I was born and raised in New York City. A visit to the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy as an elementary school kid left an indelible impression: The Navy was really cool. As a teenager, my parents forbade me to go anywhere near sailors during Fleet Week. As a 23-year-old ensign, I experienced Fleet Week in my summer whites as a member of the fleet.
Service members arriving on the half a dozen ships that participate will find that they will be berthed all over the city. My apologies to the ships stuck on Staten Island; you will have to take the ferry to get anywhere fun. The best deal is to be on the big-deck amphibious ship that gets to dock in midtown near Chelsea Piers .
Nearly everything during Fleet Week is free or steeply discounted for service members: Many of the Broadway shows offer free tickets, television programs bring service members into the audience, and the museums are all free.
Service members may also find that their meals and drinks are paid for by other customers, and that cover charges at popular nightlife hotspots are waived — and service members who have overnight liberty may find that the hotel they booked turned out to only be a place to leave a bag.
Here are some tips for surviving Fleet Week in your summer whites.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class James Evans
A member of San Francisco’s board of supervisors is seeking to ban the Blue Angels from flying over the city, less than a week after a Marine pilot, Capt. Jeff Kuss, died when his F/A-18 Hornet crashed during a Blue Angels rehearsal flight in Smyrna, Tennessee, on June 2.
If you’re coming to New York City for Fleet Week this year, don’t be that person who spends the whole time hanging out at tourist traps in Times Square. Yes, there are lots of bright lights and actors dressed like Spiderman doing cartwheels in the street for money, but there is so much more to New York than that.
U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Apprentice Magen Weatherwax
This week, thousands of men and women in uniform will descend on New York City from May 20 to 26 for one of the American military’s largest community relations events — Fleet Week. The event officially stretches back decades, but Navy vessels have visited New York Harbor for decades. This year, six ships will be a part of the official festivities — four Navy ships and two Coast Guard vessels — the USS San Antonio, the USS Barry, the USS Stout, a U.S. Naval Academy Yard Patrol Craft, the USCGC Spencer, and the USCGC Sturgeon Bay.