- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

Hundreds gathered at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Northwest yesterday to pay tribute to the civilian and military sailing fleets of the world.

Among the roughly 500 people at the 14th annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony were naval dignitaries from around the world, Navy personnel and their families, Marines and Coast Guard members, and passers-by who stayed for an hourlong concert by the U.S. Navy Band.

The event, at the Pennsylvania Avenue NW memorial, also included the Presentation of Colors and welcoming remarks by Rear Adm. Edward Walker Jr., the acting president and CEO of the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation. The admiral started the afternoon event on a jovial note.

“This is the first time in six years that it hasn’t been raining,” he said. “If you all would give a hand to the chaplain. …”

He also said the sailors’ struggle is universal because they must “ask for divine guidance to complete [a] mission and return home.”

The crowd listened to brief remarks from Vice Adm. John G. Cotton, chief of the Navy Reserve and commander of the Navy Reserve Force.

“Our sailors are better and brighter than ever before,” he said. “They don’t join the Navy to be taken care of. … We beat fascism, communism and we will beat terrorism.”

Navy Chaplain and Rear Adm. Robert F. Burn officiated the Blessing of the Fleet with a brief prayer. Sailors from the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard stationed at the District’s Navy Yard poured water from the seven seas and Great Lakes into the memorial’s fountains, symbolically infusing them with life for the new season.

Mike Bogoslawski and his wife traveled to the District from Virginia Beach to attend another event, but when they learned of the Blessing of the Fleet, they made room in their schedule. Mr. Bogoslawski said he retired from the Navy in 1999, after 21 years of service.

“We’re here for the cherry blossoms, but of course when I learned about this — we definitely planned to attend,” he said.

After the ceremony, visitors viewed a new public exhibit at the Naval Heritage Center titled “U.S. Naval Reserve: 90 years of Answering the Call.”

The exhibit profiles the reserves from its beginnings — as state naval militias — to today’s fully integrated force of nearly 80,000 reservists who serve worldwide.

Visitors also had the opportunity to sample a Navy staple as Navy chefs from the White House served their traditional bean soup to everyone who attended.

John B. Hurt, Jr. and his family drove 5 hours from Roanoke to attend yesterday’s event. Mr. Hurt, 40, served in the Navy for six years before he was injured in 1987.

“He feels very connected to the Navy,” said his mother, Carol.

She also said when Mr. Hurt received his invitation to the blessing, he said, “We have to go.”

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