By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian McNeal, Fleet Week New York Public Affairs
NEW YORK (NNS) -- Veterans, service members and civilians gathered in the shadow of the World War II-era aircraft carrier USS Intrepid to pay tribute to fallen heroes during the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Memorial Day ceremony, May 25.
The crowd of nearly 500 was brought to solemn silence as keynote speaker Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, commander, U.S. Southern command, challenged all in attendance to refocus their efforts in honoring heroes of the military, police department and first-responders.
"Often times, Memorial Day is just a long weekend," said Kelly. "We should be ashamed of ourselves if we don't at least for a few minutes on this day stop and think about the men and women who fell serving this country, and for the new greatest generation who are right now around the world facing a ruthless enemy for us."
Kelly went on to share his personal story of loss as he described the feelings his entire family felt learning of the death of his son Robert, a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, who was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan.
"I worked so hard in believing his sacrifice was worth it," he said. "It then came to me two weeks later the day we buried him. It doesn't matter what I thought of his death. The only thing that matters is what he thought, and he decided it was more important to be in Afghanistan doing what he was doing with his Marines and Navy docs who he loved so well."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to continue efforts of ensuring veterans returning home to New York City have a robust support system ready to assist their many needs.
"We have to honor our veterans every day, not just with ceremonies, but with the kind of actions that change their lives," he said. "Here in New York City, we will answer the president's call to action, and we will end veteran homelessness in this year."
The ceremony concluded with an unfurling of the national ensign, a ceremonial wreath-laying and a missing-man formation fly-over of F/A-18s Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadrons 213 and 31.
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. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.