NEW ORLEANS -- The people of New Orleans and visitors to the city will be able to tour 11 ships from six nations that arrived in New Orleans April 17, to participate in the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration and "Star Spangled Banner" Navy Week 2012.
The ships moored at several piers along the east bank include the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, the destroyer USS Mitscher and frigate USS De Wert. FS Germinal from France, HMS Montrose from Great Britain and HMCS St. John's from Canada make up the international naval contingent, along with the tall ships Dewaruci from Indonesia and BAE Guayas from Ecuador.
"This opportunity to visit the historic city of New Orleans for the Bicentennial Commemoration of the War of 1812 is a once in a lifetime experience for Wasp and the crew," said Capt. Gary M. Boardman, USS Wasp's commanding officer. "Wasp is a first-rate command, and I couldn't be more proud of my ship and crew to be selected for such an event."
The commemoration in New Orleans is an opportunity for Sailors and Marines to engage the American public to increase awareness and knowledge of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, and the vital role these services play in defense of the nation and the projection of the maritime power and security.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for our Sailors and Marines to tell their story, and the story of the sea services," said Boardman. "I would like my Sailors to reflect back on what we as a Navy accomplished back in 1812 and look at how far we have come."
"I'm very excited and honored to be able to experience my first Navy Week in New Orleans," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Justin Kesterson. "I'm not quite sure what to expect, but I'm signed up for a few tours and ready to get out and see the city."
Service members from the United States will compete in athletic events such as soccer, softball, basketball and tug-of-war with sailors from Ecuador, Indonesia, France, Canada, and Great Britain.
Two hundred years ago, the United States was a sparsely populated, newly independent country fighting in a war with Great Britain - the worlds largest Empire - over land and maritime superiority. The War of 1812 brought forth many heroic acts on land and at sea in defense of our freedom and national sovereignty.
Other events throughout the week include a seafood cook-off competition featuring local celebrity chefs teamed with military culinary specialists Friday afternoon at Woldenberg Park. The week will culminate in an air show over Lake Pontchartrain on Saturday and Sunday, featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. A complete schedule of tours and other events open free to the public can be found at nolanavyweek.com, including tickets to Friday night's War of 1812 Gala at the National World War II Museum.
Nearly a dozen community projects have been identified and many of these visitors will be lending a hand during the port visit.
"I'm looking forward to helping those who need assistance," said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Charles R. Thorp, from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "That is what the military is all about, it's not about helping yourself, but giving back to people that need your help."
Visitors from the ships as well as Navy Seabees from Gulfport, Miss., will roll up their sleeves and plant trees along Lake Pontchartrain, build a house with Habitat for Humanity and visit children in local hospitals.
The six-day celebration of the sea services honors the men and women of the military through public events and recognition, and also provides an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of surface platforms, equipment and the skills of the men and women serving aboard these vessels. Ships will be open for public visits throughout the week.
Commemorative events are scheduled to continue along the East Coast and Great Lakes over the next three years in 14 cities, culminating in New Orleans in January 2015, the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. In 1815, a mostly volunteer army led by future president Andrew Jackson defeated a much larger British force at Chalmette, securing the Mississippi River and the entire Louisiana Purchase. U.S. Navy Sailors and U.S. Marines were among the defenders, and Navy cannon contributed to the firepower that devastated 10,000 crack British troops.