Fleet Week New York returns to the Big Apple in person after 2-year COVID hiatus

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Fleet Week has returned in person in New York City.

It is another sign of a return to normal as the Parade of Ships marched up the Hudson River Wednesday, as it has for 34 years.

Leading the pack was the USS Bataan, a.k.a. the Big 5, one of the largest ships in the U.S. military.

"Being able to pull up here and fly and see where I grew up, it's awesome," said Bryce Batiancela, with U.S. Navy, who was born and raised on Staten Island.

It's his first ever fleet week, after he joined the Navy in 2016.

"Just wanted to do something better for myself, better for my family," he said. "I thought, let me just go ahead and push it to the limits and see what I can do."

Both massive and magnificent, the amphibious assault ship is now docked at Pier 88 -- but it has been around the world.

"The ship's primary purpose is to transport Marines and their equipment for humanitarian aide or in a wartime environment," Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bradley Rickard said.

Fleet Week bring 3,000 Sailors, Marines, and Coastguardsmen to New York City, and the week-long celebration includes scores of events.

"I didn't know how big it would be if I saw it the first time," spectator Ruby Blaut said.

Sgt. Dean Zammit, from South Brunswick, was once the kid taking it all in riverside. Now, he wears the uniform, a proud Marine.

"It feels great being out here," he said. "Going to the streets, hitting it hard, showing the public what we got."

After the two-year COVID hiatus of in-person events, civilians get the chance to say thank you to those in uniform.

It is a moment not lost on the men and women in uniform.

"It makes you feel proud, a little bit more proud every time, it humbles me," Zammit said. "Just know that we love doing what we're doing, we love protecting America, serving America, just being here for everybody."

Ship tours begin Thursday and run through Memorial Day.

"Proud, happy, feels like I'm doing something for other people," Navy Airman Besnik Nokha said.

There will also be demonstrations in Times Square as well as several other events to mark the holiday weekend.

In 2019, about 103,000 people took tours of ships moored throughout the city or saw aircraft displays at various parks and schools.

CLICK HERE for more information on events and tours.

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