To The Daily Sun,
In my 21-year career as a Navy Public Affairs and Media Relations officer, I served at sea and ashore in Europe, Asia and the across the United States. At Naval Base San Francisco, I coordinated a series of annual Fleet Weeks when parades of Navy and Coast Guard ships arrive with compliments of up to 12,000 sailors and embarked U.S. Marines, for a week of citywide events that celebrated Navy Birthday and gave citizens a wonderful opportunity to thank those in uniform for their service.
Today, Fleet Weeks are also celebrated in New York, and most recently in Los Angeles, where my son, the deputy mayor of Los Angeles and a Naval Reserve Intelligence Officer, just coordinated the first annual Los Angeles Fleet Week. These are each large-scale events where many thousands of service men and women interact with many tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians who honor and thank those in uniform.
For me, the best part of any Fleet Week was my joy in how warmly our sailors and Marines were greeted. Before they arrived at fleet weeks, sailors and Marines were encouraged to wear their uniforms ashore. Many didn't, until they saw uniformed sailors and Marines thanked for their service and treated to complimentary drinks and meals by restaurant owners and fellow customers. That was followed by whoosh of air as those not in uniform rushed back to their ships to change into the uniform of the day.
Now that I've retired to New Hampshire, I see that same public and patriotic support here for our active duty and retired military members. A sign outside the Elks Club in Holderness invited veterans to a barbecue and I heard radio announcements about no-cost meals for veterans at Applebee's.
The veterans event I saw advertised in The Daily Sun was the event I attended this past Wednesday. It was at the Steakhouse restaurant on Weirs Boulevard in Laconia, and when I arrived, the parking lot was filled, and there was no wonder why. The restaurant had advertised free meals for veterans — meals including a combination of prime rib and either scallops or baked stuffed shrimp, plus two sides. I had never before been to the Steakhouse, but I and my guest will be there again, because of the warmth and generosity of the owners and staff, and because of the restaurant's wonderfully delicious food. My guest and I agreed it was one of the best meals we've ever enjoyed.
I had the chance to talk with a number of other veterans that evening. I spoke with one who was leaving as we were arriving, and learned that at different times, we both had lived in Gaeta, Italy, and served on the flagship of the commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, homeported there. At the end of the meal, I thanked Dean, the master head chef at The Steakhouse, and learned that he also is a Navy veteran. If restaurant manager Sherrilynn DeCosta has any spare time, she should teach at a school for restaurant managers. She is so pleasant and gracious.
I was informed that owners Joe and Deanna Vanaria were not in the restaurant when I and my guest visited, but I believe all the veterans they honored would join me in thanking them for their great generosity and patriotism. In terms of thanking veterans on a square-foot basis, their Steakhouse restaurant is as big as any Fleet Week.
Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)
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