NEW YORK CITY — The parade of ships sailing into the harbor signals New York City’s time-honored celebration of Fleet Week, bringing thousands of sailors, Marines and Coast Guard members to the Big Apple.
For 30-plus years, Fleet Week and the events that surround it have offered a platform for civilians to learn about the maritime services and pay tribute to those in uniform.
The Lowell Hotel, a landmark of New York City’s Upper East Side, recently served as the perfect place to host the Tribute Journey-First Annual Fleet Week afternoon tea. As guests arrived in the gardenia-filled foyer, they were escorted upstairs to the Pembroke Room to join Gold Star mothers, fathers, senior officers and U-Haul Team Members for a traditional afternoon tea.
U-Haul, recognized repeatedly as a top veteran-friendly employer, was honored to play a role in Fleet Week this year as sponsor of the Tribute Journey.
After a week of ceremonies and celebrations, the tea, held in honor of Gold Star mothers and fathers, was the perfect way to conclude matters. Not only did it serve as the finale to Fleet Week 2016, but also to the first leg of the 2016 Tribute Journey.
The Tribute Journey, carried out by Gold Star mother and artist Kathryn Cross, is a tour of appreciation for our veterans and current military service members through the hand delivery of custom-made greeting cards. Illustrations and poetic verses are crafted by Cross. The cards are printed at U-Haul headquarters in Phoenix.
During the first leg of the Tribute Journey, Cross traveled more than 8,000 miles and visited VA Hospitals in eight states, delivering approximately 5,000 cards with the help of U-Haul Team Members.
“Our Fleet Week afternoon tea provided an avenue for Gold Star parents to unite with the military’s most senior officers and join together without a schedule, ceremony or media to acknowledge the lives dedicated in service of our country by our families,” Cross said. “This unique opportunity allowed us the nobility and dignity, which both groups deserve, to uniquely recognize the close relevance of our military families. It was amazing and more appreciated than words can express.”
U-Haul marketing company presidents Jeff Sonberg and Will Wolff were among the guests at the tea. Sonberg gave heartfelt opening remarks, and welcomed everyone on behalf of U-Haul.
In addition to Sonberg’s and Cross’s remarks, Victor Martinez, Chief of Protocol for the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, and Loree Sutton, Commissioner of Veterans Affairs for New York City, spoke at the tea.
Commissioner Sutton praised the work U-Haul has done in the past and continues to do in the veteran community. She also expressed her excitement about working with U-Haul in the future to ending veterans’ homelessness in New York City.
Guests enjoyed English tea sandwiches, assorted fruit tarts, French pastries, macaroons, herbal and fruit infusions, and, of course, a selection of teas. Cross gave everyone in attendance a special Tribute Journey Challenge coin.
“Our Tribute Journey-Fleet Week afternoon tea was truly a success,” Sonberg said. “It served as an official welcome and thank you from U-Haul to Gold Star mothers, fathers, family members, as well as senior officers from both the United States and Canada participating in Fleet Week 2016. It was done professionally, with pride and dignity. Everyone in attendance had a chance to relax, meet peers and VIPs, and drink tea.”
In closing, Cross shared with the guests, “It was a wonderful afternoon tea with friends. Thank you all for your service, and special thanks to U-Haul for its incredible generosity and support of the Tribute Journey.”
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