Sailors from the U.S.S. Shreveport walk down the gangplank while heading out on liberty during Fleet Week Wednesday
In fashionable New York City, it is customary to wait until the last Monday in May to don white clothes. But don't tell that to the 6000 military men and women strolling Manhattan's streets, many dressed in their white naval uniforms, some crowned with white sailor's caps.
Ten U.S. and international navy ships dropped anchor after parading along Manhattan's coast, all part of the Navy's 18th Annual Fleet Week. Thousands of sailors, Marines and members of the Coast Guard will be in town until June first, showing off their skills in fun competitions, giving tours of the ships, and interacting with the general public.
Petty Officer First Class Anthony Cain is in from Delaware to support Fleet Week.
"Today is really the first official day of Fleet Week so a lot of sailors are coming out you know, for the Kennedy and the Porter and other ships," he said. "They might be coming off deployment. It's a little rest and relaxation, but at the same time, it gives the people of New York and the surrounding areas a chance to see the face of the Navy and to go down and explore the ships."
Petty Officer First Class Lee Harris has been in the Navy for 14 years. He is in from New Orleans, Louisiana, to guide public tours of the ships, including Fleet Week's flagship aircraft carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy.
"The main thing about the Kennedy is that they are surprised as to how many people are on board. They have a crew of about five thousand and then they are amazed," he added.
Equally amazing is the ship's height of 23 stories and the flight deck's two-hectare span. The carrier, named for the U.S. president, has been in Florida since it completed its final mission in the Persian Gulf in December, and it will likely be decommissioned. It is considered the highlight of this year's Fleet Week parade.
For many visiting military men and women, the highlight is visiting New York's Times Square, with its dazzling lights and energy to match. Wearing their white dress uniforms, the sailors stand out against the gray buildings and streets punctuated by zooming yellow taxi cabs.
Petty Officer First Class Alfredo Cavazos, of the USS John F. Kennedy, is one of the many sailors taking in Times Square.
"I love the city," he said. "It's great. It's good to be here. A lot of people approach us and thank us for what we do for our country and for freedom. And we get the looks, but also, that does not bother me. I love what I do for my country and for freedom, also."
Chief Petty Officer Lee Seranni, of the USS Shreveport, is one of hundreds of sailors and Marines to appear on the four story wide, three story high Panasonic screen in the middle of Times Square.
"I have already called home and bragged about it!" he exclaimed.
Within view of the giant TV screen and Broadway's famed theaters, USO singers entertain members of the armed forces. Fleet Week, in their words, is a chance to thank the men and women who spend so much of their time at sea.