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The United States Navy Memorial hosted the 23rd Annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony at the memorial in Washington April 14.

The ceremony followed the Washington, D.C. annual Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, and featured the United States Navy Band and Ceremonial Guard, along with a Parade of Attaches and presentation of colors advanced across the memorial’s outdoor plaza as the event commenced.

President and CEO of the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation, retired Vice Adm. John Totushek, welcomed the guests to the centuries-old tradition.

“Usually this tradition is performed in fishing villages to pray for the Sailors are taken care of and they come back with a plentiful harvest,” said Totushek.

The blessing of the fleet is a ceremony created centuries ago in Europe and is a common practice by Sailors and navies around the world intended to guard ships and crews from the hazards of the sea.

Sailors from the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard and Coast Guard Honor Guard poured water from the Seven Seas and the Great Lakes into the surrounding fountains, “charging” them to life and ushering in the spring season.

This year’s ceremony also kicked off the Year of the Coast Guard.

“Normally this ceremony is an all-Navy event, but if you look around this year you see a lot of the lighter-blue participating,” said Totushek. “The Navy Memorial is here to represent all the sea services.”

Previous year-round themes have included the “Year of the Chief” and the “Year of the Military Woman” with future themes including the “Year of the Navy Reserve” and the “Year of the Marine Corps,” added Totushek.

Guests were treated to a musical performance by the Coast Guard band and were served a sampling of Navy Bean Soup, prepared by the White House Mess.

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