NEW YORK - September 11, 2001 will forever live in the hearts and minds of Americans who experienced the tragedy of that day. Now, 12 years later, the USS New York, which was constructed with approximately six tons of World Trade Center steel, came to New York City to take part in the Veterans Day weekend festivities
As the symbolic ship sailed up the Hudson River, Marines and sailors aboard the USS New York manned the rails and were welcomed with a warm ovation from other service members, veterans, and New Yorkers as they pulled into port.
Navy Captain Jon Kreitz, the commanding officer of the ship, said both liberty and work during the day were equally important.
“Liberty is a mission,” Kreitz said. “We need to always act with impeccable professionalism when we are within the city and represent the Navy and Marine Corps well.”
Approximately 50 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division were joined by Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, and Marines from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and the sailors of the USS New York for the unique opportunity to experience New York City during Veterans Day weekend.
In addition to having the chance to explore New York City, there was no shortage of ceremonies for the Marines and sailors to participate in. Some went to a New York Giants football game, and displayed a large American flag on the field before the game.
“I was fortunate to be able to go to the Giants’ game,” said Sgt. Mitchell Antonnaccio, a platoon sergeant for 3rd Bn, 6th Marines, and a native of Queens, N.Y. “I’m a die-hard Giants fan and I got to hold the flag on the field. It was an overwhelming experience to be a part of. They let us watch the game up in a suite, and it was something I’ll treasure forever.”
Other Marines went on The Today Show on Veterans Day. Many of the Marines and sailors marched in the city’s Veteran’s Day Parade.
Marines and sailors who marched in the parade received praise from patrons in attendance. “Thank you for your service” shouts were heard up and down the street the service members marched on.
Marines also worked on the ship, the USS New York was opened to the public every day for the public for tours of the ship. During the tours, Marines put various weapons systems and equipment the Marine Corps on display.
“We had M16s, AT-4s, SMAWs, machine guns and sniper rifles and others systems laid out on display,” said Lance Cpl. Hamilton Garces, an infantryman with 3rd Bn, 6th Marines. “My section had M4s and body armor on display.”
Garces said he enjoyed educating people who otherwise didn’t know much about the military.
“A lot of people don’t know how young we are,” Garces said. “They assume people in the military are older. When they see our age, they have a deeper respect for what we do.”
The Marines also enjoyed liberty in New York City, a place many hadn’t visited before.
“A lot of my buddies are from smaller parts of the country,” said Garces, a New Jersey native. “Bringing them out into the city was like taking a kid to a candy store. It was fun to see them looking at the nighttime lights and looking 90 degrees straight up at the skyscrapers. It was a great time for everyone who came here.”
“It’s a unique experience to walk around New York in our dress uniform,” Garces said. “Everyone loves us and wants to take pictures with us. These people of New York definitely appreciate the sacrifice we make as men and women in the military.”