Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lunch On A Destroyer

Under a bright blue sky, on a warm early summer day, the naval destroyer USS The Sullivans sat at the place where she was commissioned a decade earlier, the pier that bears the ship's name in the Stapleton section of Staten Island, New York.

Treated to a full lunch on Friday, June 16th, which included typical New York Deli food; potato salad, cole slaw, heroes, our heroes filed into the crew mess in the center of the ship, socialized with each other and watched movies on the two televisions that garnish either side of the mess. Other crew members spend their day on liberty; taking in the sights of New York while still others gave tours of the ship they are proud of serve on.

The lunch was sponsored by the New York Metro chapter of the Navy League, who not only brought the food on board the destroyer, but prepared a buffet and cleaned up after lunch was over, giving the men and women of the destroyer's crew a much deserved break from cleaning.

"We do all the work, the cooking, the preparing, the serving, and the cleaning." Said Frank Graham, organizer of the event and a member of Tin Can Sailors, a group of naval destroyer veterans.

The Navy League, founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, is a civilian-run organization that educates civilians and elected officials on the needs and condition of the maritime forces as well as provides support for the men and women of the United States Navy. The New York area chapter of the Naval League has been involved in Fleet Week, during which they provided meals for two other naval ships; The USS Winston S. Churchill and the USS Hue City. They also planned 135 events for members of the navy in town during Fleet Week. Ralph W. Slane, Vice President of the Navy League said they hoped to increase the number of ships and crew members who will get meals next year.

"We hope to sponsor at least three ships next year during Fleet Week." Said Slane.

The USS The Sullivan, an Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer based out of Mayport, Florida, arrived in Staten Island on Thursday the 15th and will remain there until Sunday the 17th, docked across the pier from the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the floating museum that is currently in the middle of a massive rehabilitation and is expected to return to its dock in Manhattan next September. Standing on the deck of the ship, one can look north to see the skyline of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the site where the World Trade Center stood before September 11, 2001. The destroyer is also in town to celebrate the retirement of its first captain, Cpt. Ron Carlito who took command of The Sullivans ten years ago.

The USS The Sullivans is the second ship commissioned by the United States Navy to bear the names of the Sullivan Brothers; George, Francis, Joseph, Madison and Albert, who all died aboard the USS Juneau when it was sunk by the Japanese during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in the South Pacific in November, 1942.

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