Paying Tribute to Our Local Heroes

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Fleet Week San Diego is the nation’s largest salute to the military and this year’s events are back and better than ever.

The tradition of Fleet Week is rich in history and has changed greatly since its original formation. Fleet Week began as a hands on way for civilians to learn about and support our military and their day to day operations. Traditionally, recently deployed ships would dock in a collection of major cities for the duration one week.

San Diego houses the largest naval base on the west coast and has a long history of association with the United States Navy. Connections between civilians and local military men and women run deep. This has not always been the case, however.  Despite the obvious military presence in San Diego, military tributes were few and far between before the inception of Fleet Week.

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW/SW) Tiffini M. Jones

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW/SW) Tiffini M. Jones

Fleet Week San Diego was created as a way to support Sailors and Marines and to establish San Diego as a patriotic, pro-military city. The event gives residents a chance to show their support to our service men and women. Today, Fleet Week San Diego encompasses over 20 events and has become the nation’s largest tribute to the military.

Fleet Week events are extremely popular among tourists and locals yet few people know the history behind the event.

San Diego is the birthplace of the tradition, but the event was held here only once until recently. The first Fleet Week took place in 1935 during the California Pacific Exposition. In addition to paying tribute to the Navy and Marine Corps, the Expo also focused on city exhibits in history, arts, science, and industry in San Diego.

It was not until the mid 90s that Fleet Week as we know it was born. The goal of the modern Fleet Week was to celebrate the men and women of the armed forces in a similar way to the largely successful Fleet Week events held in San Francisco.

The tradition of San Diego Fleet Week began in 1997 and was led by retired Rear Admiral Bruce Boland. His main goal was to highlight the historical, economic and cultural importance of the county’s military personnel. With the support of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the week-long event offered an intimate view of the efforts of our region’s service men and women.

During the 90s, the event bean with the Parade of Ships and included free civilian ship tours.  By 2001 Fleet Week San Diego had expanded to what we know today.  It was then that the San Diego Fleet Week Foundation was created. As a nonprofit, public benefit corporation, all proceeds from the week-long event are donated to charitable organizations that directly benefit our enlisted service members and provide critical support to military families.

Sponsored by the Port of San Diego and several other prominent local organizations, the 2001 recreation of Fleet Week San Diego was established as a permanent, annual tribute to men and women in uniform. The event was also moved to October to include the Marine Corps Air Show and featured a full month of military events. This landmark move served to create a solid foundation and continuing goal of expansion for the current Fleet Week San Diego.

Blue Angels (Courtsey Photo)

Blue Angels (Courtsey Photo)

San Diego Fleet Week 2009 is well underway. There are many events to be excited about, including one of the most well known and looked forward to events of the year — the Miramar Air Show. With all events open to the public, Fleet Week San Diego allows locals to celebrate the spirit and achievements of Sailors, Marines, and Coastguardsmen. The events also draw a large tourist crowd, giving visitors a taste of the pride San Diegans have for service men and women.

As the nation’s largest and most prominent salute to the military, Fleet Week San Diego has expanded from just a few events to more than 20 major attractions. Because of the success and expansion of activities during Fleet Week, one week is no longer enough. Servicemen and women from the U.S Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as the general public and the local community can enjoy a wide variety of activities during the two month celebration, including the Coronado Speed Festival, Miramar Air Show, Sea and Air Parade, and the Football Classic.

The 2009 tribute is well underway. Events that have already taken place include:

Star Spangled Salute Gala (August 15, 2009)
Fleet Week Padres Baseball Game (August 20, 2009)
All Enlisted Golf Tournament (September 16, 2009)
Heroes Appreciation Luncheon (September 22, 2009)
MCRD Bootcamp Challenge (September 26, 2009)
Coronado Speed Festival and Navy Open House (September 26-27, 2009)

Events to be held over the next month:

Enlisted Recognition Luncheon (September 30, 2009)
The Miramar Air Show (October 2 – 4, 2009)
Operation Liberty Call (October 2, 2009)
Fleet Week Golf Tournament (October 7, 2009)
Navy Birthday Ball (October 10, 2009)
Veterans Home of California BBQ (October 17, 2009)
Fleet Week Foundation Breakfast (October 21, 2009)

Some of the most looked forward to events occurred this past weekend, including Navy Ship Tours on the North Island Naval Air Station. Civilians were offered the opportunity to visit a destroyer/cruiser class and an amphibious class of ships.

One of the most prominent events of the week, the MCAS Miramar Air Show, occurs next week. Head to the Air Show next weekend for some amazing high flying action, including routines from some of the world’s best military and civilian pilots. For the first time at the Miramar Air Show, the Canadian military Jet Demonstration Team, the Snowbirds, will be joining the Navy’s Blue Angels. Also heading for the sky will be the Patriots Jet Demonstration Team, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), the Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier, Air Force F-16 and the Navy’s F-18 E/F Super Hornet.

This year’s air show will also include a special Twilight Show featuring the Great Wall of Fire and a fireworks grand finale on Saturday, October 3rd. The MCAS Miramar Air Show is free to the general public, so head on over for some high flying fun.

San Diego resident for over 10 years, I now call this beautiful city home. Originally from the Bay Area, I'm a California girl at heart. I love the outdoors, fitness, food, and a good craft beer (from San Diego of course).

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