YORKTOWN -- Military members from the Hampton Roads area commemorated the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and OpSail 2012 Virginia at Yorktown Maritime Weekend, June 1 - 3.
Service members from all branches of service participated in the free event held at Riverwalk Landing near Yorktown National Battlefield, and was attended by hundreds of visitors from around the world.
“This is just a great event for the military to give back to the community and for the community to give back to the military,” said Mark O. Piggot, public affairs officer for Naval Weapons Station Yorktown.
The non-profit, congressionally-chartered organization of tall ship events, Operation Sail, Inc. (OpSail) has partnered with the Navy to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 across the country and Yorktown is an affiliate port with OpSail 2012 Virginia.
The War of 1812 marked a time when the United States was forced to fight against Great Britain for its independence for a second time. The U.S. Navy played a pivotal role in keeping America free and securing its seas, a tradition that continues today. It was also during America’s “Second War of Independence” that Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Dressed in colonial uniforms, the U.S. Coast Guard 1790 Color Guard, along with The Fifes & Drums of Yorktown, performed the opening ceremony for the weekend’s Parade of Sail, which featured military boats and tall ships like the Schooner Alliance.
“We’re in a very historic spot right now,” said Fireman 3rd Class Juan Gandara from U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, who assisted in mooring the tall ships. “Many people died for our country.”
“I think the tall ships help reflect back on our sailorship. Being able to show and talk about them is part of the history and heritage that we can bring to life for everybody,” said Piggot.
Visitors enjoyed the view of the beach while listening to music performed by the U.S. Fleet Forces Band, participating in weapons demonstrations by the Marine Corps and attending educational booths such as Fleet and Family Support Services manned by Navy personnel.
“I am proud to be here and the fact that we can contribute to the community,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Brad Milward from Naval Weapons Yorktown. “We can show that the Navy heritage is still alive and hopefully some individuals would have the pride to join and fight like our forefathers did, for our freedom.”
The Navy and OpSail will continue to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 and “The Star Spangled Banner” with events across America until 2015.