Flag waving-well wishers yelled a hearty “Welcome to Brooklyn” cheer to several hundred sailors on the guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG-99) when it sailed into Red Hook on Wednesday to kick off the city’s time-honored Fleet Week tradition.
“I am here to support our troops and one day I want to serve my country,” said Nicholas Brigante, 15, of Sayville, who is a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Lt. Michael Murphy Division. He was one of a dozen cadets from Long Island dressed in white naval uniforms and hats that welcomed the arriving active-duty sailors.
A parade of the nation’s largest battleships sailed into New York Harbor on Wednesday, where thousands of sailors, Marines and Coast Guard personnel are expected to descend onto city streets and venues to celebrate the 29th annual Fleet Week New York this Memorial Day weekend.
The ships, which will be open to the public for free tours, are docked at piers 86, 88 and 92 in Manhattan, as well as at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and Homeport Pier on Staten Island.
“This is the high point for our cadets,” said Vietnam War veteran Gary Vertichio, who is the Long Island cadet group’s commanding officer. “This is an opportunity for the cadets to see our mighty Navy and go aboard these phenomenal warships.”
Anthony Compierchio, 13, of Medford, said he joined the cadets because he was inspired by the story of Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was raised in Patchogue.
Murphy, who received the Medal of Honor in 2007, was killed when under attack by Taliban gunfire in the mountainside of the Kunar province in Afghanistan. Murphy ran out into a clearing to pick up a radio signal to call for a rescue. After making the call he was shot dead. Murphy’s story became a movie and memorials to honor Murphy’s service have been erected in Patchogue. He and three other Navy SEALs were on a mission to search for a Taliban leader.
“He is my inspiration — a hero who was courageous and brave,” said Anthony, who wants to become a Navy SEAL, too. “I am hoping to go into the Navy and become a special warfare/special operator,” he said with certainty.
“When Anthony was 10, he saw one of Murphy’s memorials and he started to research his story,” the boy’s mother, Cynthia Compierchio, 48, of Medford, said. “He will graduate from the same high school, and he will make Eagle Scout next year just like Lt. Murphy.”
“They are hard working and polite like my son,” said Maureen Murphy of Patchogue, reminiscing about her son, who was 29 when he died. “The cadets volunteer for everything . . . food drives, wheeling elderly veterans at the Stony Brook football games. . . . Whatever has to be done, they do it, never bragging about it. They are our future and they will be great citizens.”
Donna Brigante, 52, of Sayville, said her son Nicholas will follow in the military tradition of his uncles, who both served in submarine divisions. “I am excited for him and I know that he will excel and be the very best.”