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WASHINGTON Service members representing all branches of the U.S. military were treated to an afternoon cruise and pre-Thanksgiving dinner along the Potomac River Nov. 20 aboard Washington, D.C's Odyssey cruise line. The celebration was part of Odyssey's annual Patriot Day Thanksgiving cruise that brings together veterans, wounded warriors and single service members from around the National Capital Region (NCR).

Catered food, live music, dancing and mingling was had by all who attended. Sal Naso, vice-president and general manager of Entertainment Cruises of Washington, welcomed everyone aboard and made it clear that this day was all about honoring our nation's finest.

“This is all for you. It's the least we can do for your service and sacrifices,” Naso said before kicking things off. “It's our honor to host you today and we thank you for all you do.”

The ship, food and entertainment were compliments of Odyssey, including the ship's staff who volunteered their time to serve America's heroes, Naso said. Additionally, as the Odyssey pulled away from its dock at the Washington Marina, guests received a grand send off by the Washington D.C. Fireboat John H. Glenn. Metropolitan Harbor Patrol also provided a police escort up the river.

“It's very relaxing. I'm having a great time with my fellow service members,” said Army Sgt. Jerome Payne, a member of the U.S. Army Honor Guard at Fort Myer, Va. “It's not too often you get a chance to spend some time outside the office.”

Petty Officer 1st Class LeeAnn Schott travelled from Thurmont, Md. to be a part of the celebration. One of the things she enjoyed most was the camaraderie among everyone attending.

“It's great to see everyone having such a good time. Whatever your rank is, that doesn't matter today,” Schott said. “This is for everyone. It's wonderful that Odyssey is doing this for service members, veterans and our wounded warriors. It's a wonderful gesture of appreciation. And the food is great!”

Besides active-duty service members from each military branch, guests included veterans from the Armed Forces Retirement Home of Washington, D.C.; the Disabled American Veterans of Washington, D.C.; veterans from the Virginia Honor Flight; members of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda, Md. and service members from the Warrior-in-Transition Unit at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Retired Army Maj. Robert Argentio, a veteran of the Korean War, was accompanied by his wife, Helen. Their invitation aboard the Odyssey this day was not only flattering, but humbling, he said.

“Here I am spending an afternoon with today's brave men and women of our U.S. military. It's an honor to be here with them,” Argentio added. “A beautiful afternoon, a lovely meal and wonderful people. It doesn't get much better than this.”