MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- USS Boone (FFG 28) returned to its Naval Station (NAVSTA) Mayport homeport for the final time, Nov. 17, following a 10-day underway which included a visit to New York City.
Boone is scheduled to be decommissioned Feb. 23, 2012.
The visit to New York coincided with the city's Veterans Day festivities which included a remembrance and celebration at Citi Pond at Bryant Park and a Veterans Day Parade.
More than 400 Sailors and veterans from all branches of the military service participated in the parade that began at Madison Square Park Nov. 11. They marched up New York City's famed Fifth Avenue, while 600,000 spectators watched the festivities along the route.
"Visiting New York City this Veterans Day was a great privilege and honor for us. There was no better way we could have spent Veterans Day than celebrating with those who have served and given so much of their lives to defend this great nation of ours," said Cmdr. Roy Love, Boone commanding officer. "Marching in the parade alongside the veterans and all those serving on active duty from every service was an unforgettable experience. Being surrounded by New Yorkers who were cheering, praising, and thanking the veterans and Armed Forces was exhilarating. You could feel your heart beating in your chest, and the pride and joy well up deep within and come bursting out in loud cheers that harmonized with those of the crowd. What an exciting moment for all of us!"
The U.S. Navy, for the first time since the parade was founded in 1919, was this year's featured armed service. Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, served as the parade's Grand Marshal. Navy Band Northeast and the U.S. Naval Academy Women's Glee Club performed throughout the day. The parade theme this year was, "The 10th Anniversary of the Response to Sept. 11."
Boone, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate, had more than 200 Sailors participating in the ceremonies.
Along with the celebrations at Citi Pond and 5th Avenue, Boone Sailors participated in other patriotic-themed military appreciation events.
Quartermaster 2nd Class (SW) Anthony Banaszek, who was invited to attend the taping of the David Letterman Show, said it was an experience he'll never forget.
"The hospitality shown to us at the Letterman Show was fantastic. Upon arrival we were invited to the entrance where the celebrity guests for the show were. We witnessed the guests come in and we were given VIP passes into the show," said Banaszek. "The show itself was awesome and so funny. Everyone involved in the show was very supportive of us and then brought us down to the stage afterwards to take pictures. It was absolutely unforgettable."
On Nov. 12, Navy League New York Council members hosted a hoagie meal for Boone Sailors. Later, Boone reciprocated holding a reception on the flight deck with more than 200 invitees providing an opportunity for the crew to show their appreciation for the city's support.
"We were honored and humbled to be part of such a wonderful event," said Ehren Baxter, of Jersey City, N. J. "Last night (Nov. 12) was a once and a lifetime opportunity for us and we are so grateful that USS Boone included us in their ship's celebration. Taking the tour, meeting the officers and crew while celebrating such an important holiday was an amazing experience. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything."
"We hosted more than 250 people on board throughout the Veterans Day weekend. It was a once and a lifetime opportunity for visitors from New York City to visit the ship and the Sailors enjoyed every bit of it," said Lt. Jason Lautar, Boone's operation's officer. "One of the best things about the tours and reception were the New York Police Department (NYPD) guests. The police officers and detectives were fantastic hosts and guests at the same time. They represented more than half of the tour guests and it was a pleasure to meet all of them. We had Sailors volunteering to give tours and walk them through the ship. It gave us an opportunity to let them see for themselves what it is like to live on board a U.S. warship. They have done so much for New York City and we just wanted to show our appreciation to them as well by allowing their families and friends on board."
The ship was open to the public at Staten Island's Homeport Pier throughout Veterans Day weekend allowing the Boone crew to demonstrate their mission capabilities and underway-living conditions.
"Our interaction with the pier detail officers of the NYPD was an amazing experience," said Electronic's Technician 2nd Class (PJ) Michael Loftus. "We gave personal tours, traded hats, shirts, coins, patches and of course stories. We all sacrifice the same for this country but in different capacities and they treated us like their own. I was honored to have them on board and share a brotherhood that seemed to exist from the minute we moored to the pier. "
The Veterans Day weekend concluded with Boone and other local Sailors participating in a pre-game ceremony honoring them during the New York Jets and New England Patriots football game Sunday night. During this time, service members from all United States military branches unfurled a giant American flag during the national anthem.
"The entire experience was phenomenal," stated Lt. Jeffrey Carideo, from Holliston, Mass. whose father, William, was aboard the ship for the Tiger Cruise back to Mayport. "I felt honored to be a part of the flag ceremony with fellow military members from all branches."
Boone recently completed a six-month deployment in support of Southern Seas 2011 and counter illicit trafficking operations in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility, during which the Boone team circled the South American continent and made 18 port visits. The ship also transited the Straits of Magellan, Panama Canal and visited seven countries while participating in major multinational exercises including both Pacific and Atlantic phases of UNITAS.