This Memorial Day Weekend, sailors in dress whites, Marines, and members of the Coast Guard roamed New York City to take in the sights and activities of New York’s Fleet Week.
We set out to meet sailors to see what they actually do during Fleet Week, a tradition in which recently deployed military ships dock in major U.S. cities like New York for one week. After walking around the city for a while, we spotted Petty Officer Second Class Spencer Roby talking to a local across the street from a Navy Band concert in Herald Square.
“My experience has been great. Everybody has been super social and welcoming,” he told Business Insider.
Roby arrived aboard the USS McFaul destroyer from his home port in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s been easy for him to roam the city from Staten Island, where his ship is docked.
“Transportation has been nearly free, taxis not so much, but buses, trains, ferries, mostly everything has been free for us to get around,” Roby said.
This year’s Fleet Week, which spans from May 21-27, was noticeably smaller in force than previous years, with the exception of last year when it was canceled completely because of federal budget cuts.
Approximately 1,500 service members docked off the West Side of Manhattan and Staten Island in three naval ships and two Coast Guard cutters. During Fleet Week service members host parades and give demonstrations, as well as tours of the ships. Sailors also make appearances at sporting events and television shows and interact with civilians.
A Connecticut native, Roby has never visited New York City before and was glad to do so in conjunction with his first-ever Fleet Week. Roby said he has plenty of time to sightsee while carrying out his Navy duties.
“We have duty every three days and on our off-duty days we have to help sponsor an event,” Roby said. “Our event last night was to attend the Late Night With Seth Meyers and represent the Navy in the audience.”
On their off days sailors have to wear their dress whites and in doing so, they still represent the Navy when they’re out in public.
Sailors are also required to partner with a fellow sailor from their ships wherever they go.
Roby and his buddy had just returned from visiting the newly opened National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the Empire State Building, and a couple bars.
“People are so quick to help us out because we’ve never been here before and we get so turned around,” Roby laughed.
Many people have posted their photos with sailors on Twitter under the hashtag #SelfieWithASailor. We took our #SelfieWithASailor too.
“So many people have come up to us asking for pictures or just thanking us. A lot of people thanking,” Roby said. “It’s been a really great experience.”
Although it was Roby’s first time in New York City, the Navy has given him the opportunity to travel abroad to countries like Scotland and Norway.
Roby spent his Fleet Week nights aboard his ship, and afterward he’ll return to his base in Virginia.
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