Soldiers thank New York for its Fleet Week welcome
by Allison McLean
NEW YORK CITY – Marine Michael Porfidio relaxed in Times Square against a backdrop of thousands of civilians and soldiers who mingled in the streets for the annual Fleet Week celebration.
All the smiles and handshakes made for a “warming experience,” Porfidio said.
Since 1984, New York City has unrolled the red carpet for members of the U.S. military during Fleet Week in order to show gratitude for military members’ faithful service.
However, according to Marine Ben Barker, the gratitude extends both ways.
“Our jobs are hard, and the infantry is no joke,” said Barker. “It’s just good to know that people really appreciate you. Ya’ll are nice. It’s very encouraging to be here.”
Seamen Eric Lee and Frank Boe said they appreciate New York’s kindness as well.
Just back from Haiti, Boe and Lee decided to go see the top of the Empire State Building, which would be a first time for Boe.
An Empire State Building official, noticing the two sailors, explained that all military men and women were welcome to ride to go to the top of the building for free – an offer that Boe and Lee could not refuse.
One of the other marines Erick Berrios, from Carolina, Puerto Rico, shared the other soldiers’ sentiments.
“I feel very welcome,” Berrios said with a smile. “It’s perfect.”
Berrios explained that this feeling of welcome was due to the free food and other amenities that people of all diversities have shown to him and his friends.
Porfidio also added that he did not only want to thank the city for its hospitality but also United States citizens, in general, for their financial support.
“The purpose of fleet week, to me, is mainly to show the civilians that we’re here for them and thank them for all the taxes that come to us,” Porfidio said.
Berrios added that it was nice to get to know another part of the country that he protects.
“It’s nice to get to know New York,” said Berrios. “I like it.”
Click here for narrated slide show.