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San Francisco VA Health Care System

 

Volunteer Spotlight

Marines and Sailors Bring Joy and Camaraderie to Veterans During Fleet Week Visit to San Francisco VA

October marked the 36th anniversary of Fleet Week in San Francisco, honoring the contributions of our men and women of the United States Armed Forces while advancing cooperation and knowledge among civilian and military disaster preparedness.

San Francisco officially started Fleet Week back in 1981. The first official Fleet Week was celebrated in San Diego in 1935 with 114 warships and 400 military planes. It was described as the mightiest fleet ever assembled under the U.S. flag. In 1946, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, wanted to create a flight exhibition to boost the public’s interest in naval aviation and to increase Navy morale, known today as the Blue Angels. In 1947, Flight Leader Lt. Cmdr. Robert "Bob" Clarke introduced the now-famous Blue Angels Diamond Formation. In 1949, Flight Leader Lt. Cmdr. Raleigh "Dusty" Rhodes designed the first official Blue Angels insignia or "crest." It is nearly identical to the current design today.

Fleet Week is an occasion filled with opportunities for service members to give back to the community. As part of the military tradition a group of about 30 active-duty Marines and Sailors visited with Veterans around the hospital. Members from the 3rd Battalion 11th Marines, Combat Logistics’ 11th MEU, and the USS Essex (LHD-2) showed the true spirit of camaraderie with our Veterans. “It was great spending time with our Veterans and listening to their stories, it’s like reliving history,” said Petty Officer First Class Sampaga, Irwin

Each year during Fleet Week Chief of Voluntary Services Owetdia Dupree and Assistant Chief Jim McDermott has the privilege of bringing our service members and Veterans together while sharing some of Fort Miley’s history. “It’s great having service members visit, our Veterans enjoy spending time and sharing stories with one another,” said Jim McDermott.

During their visit service members spent time with Veterans while waiting for appointments along with our Veteran residents at our Community Living Center (CLC). Many of our Veterans expressed that it was an honor to have active service members here. “Once you're in the military you develop a camaraderie, and that never leaves you in your life throughout the years,” said Navy Veteran Matthew. The respect for one’s service was strongly mutual. Countless Veterans greeted the young Marines and Sailors with a strong hand salute out of respect for one another. Many chants of Semper Fi, always faithful (the motto of US Marine Corps) could be heard echoing throughout the hospital hallways.  

Perhaps the most moving moment, while visiting the CLC, was when a Marine and Sailor sat down together in the dining hall with a room full of Veterans and played the piano while others shared stories about their time in the service. The joy was seen across the faces of staff, Veterans, and service members alike. “Amazing VA staff, hospital and views, I enjoyed connecting with our Veterans and sharing stories,” said Marine Sergeant Ramirez, Jaime