By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Gordon, Fleet Week New York Public Affairs
NEW YORK (NNS) -- Service members were treated to music and food at the Fleet Week New York Music Festival in Staten Island, May 24.
Hosted by the Fleet Week New York Activities Committee and the Flagship Brewing Company, the event featured local musical acts, catered meals, and games free of charge for service members. Visiting Sailors remarked on the hospitality of the Staten Island community and their outpouring support for the military.
"It's a great experience, and not one you might expect to find in a big city like this," said Gas Turbine System Technician 1st Class (SW) Dave Thibault USS Barry (DDG 52). "But honestly, the New York (area) has been gratuitously friendly to us, and they keep doing it year after year."
The event also served as an opportunity to recognize community members who have given freely of their time in support of the military for decades. Volunteers Cathy O'Donnell and Rita Hayes were given the titles of grand marshals of the music festival in recognition of their more than 70 years of volunteer service to such organizations as the Red Cross, the United Service Organizations (USO), and the American Legion.
O'Donnell's service began when her family was called to service in World War II.
"My husband served in the Air Corps and my brother served in the Navy during World War II, so I did as much as I could to help," she said. "During the war, as a teenager I remember folding bandages for the Red Cross after school. After I graduated, my first job was for the Bureau of Ships where we worked in expediting material for PT boat (short for Patrol Torpedo boat) construction."
Hayes started volunteering with the USO while still a teenager herself.
"Many years ago I was with the USO in my district here," she explained. "We had a hall where we would serve coffee and hold dances for the Sailors who were shipping out. Since then, I've just kept at it. I've been volunteering at the Stapleton Senior Center five days a week for 25 years and with the American Legion for 35 years."
Hayes added that Fleet Week remains one her favorite events to participate in because it reminds her of where she started it all.
"I enjoy it down at Fleet Week," said Hayes. "It's great talking to all these young Sailors ... it's just like when I served with the USO during the war."
Sailors and Coast Guardsmen joined the ladies on stage to show their thanks as the two were presented with flowers and letters of commendation from New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Organizers said they saw the event as a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to military and volunteer personnel throughout the years.
"Our grand marshals this year have been supporting the military in the community since World War II," said Donna Cutugno of the Fleet Week New York Activities Committee. "They're quite the example of how the community should support the military, as much as it supports us back home. So we're so happy to have everyone here."
Fleet Week New York, now in its 27th year, is the city's time-honored celebration of the sea services. It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today's maritime services.