By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian McNeal, Fleet Week New York Public Affairs
NEW YORK (NNS) -- Service members took leave from eventful Fleet Week activities to join nearly 2,000 gatherers at Times Square Church (TSC) for a morning of praise and spiritual revitalization, May 24.
TSC's Fleet Week Salute Service offered New Yorkers and visitors alike an opportunity to thank Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines in attendance for their service and sacrifice, as well as a chance to extend prayers of support and protection to those serving abroad.
"My son served in the Marine Corps and aboard a ship, and he's a better man for it," said Carter Conlon, TSC's Lead Pastor. "I ask a prayer for those who are serving this country for courage and strength as they keep us protected and free in the midst of all the threats that face this current generation."
Although the service members were guests at a new church, the warm reception from the congregation made the service a rewarding experience.
"I love worshipping and the Lord is a big part of my life," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Gabriel Holguin, stationed aboard USS San Antonio (LPD 17). "When a complete stranger comes up to me and says they are praying for me, it reminds me of why I enlisted in the first place."
A relationship with a higher being is an important outlet and escape for service members, said Lt. Phillip Coffman, a Navy Chaplain aboard San Antonio. "Whatever religion you are a part of, that relationship keeps you grounded and gives an opportunity to put a sense of meaning into what we are called to do."
Marine Corps Sgt. Alan Garcia added, "Church is a big priority in my life. Something that's been taught to me is that you can always make time for church. We like to think we are busy, but there is always time in our lives. Before we came into the building, they welcomed us with open arms and that's what church is about."
In addition to the Salute Service, TSC also facilitates a robust military ministry program which provides a number of wellness programs, as well as prayer for active duty military, veterans and police officers in New York.
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 service