Story Number: NNS140805-17Release Date: 8/5/2014 8:04:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gretchen M. Albrecht
BALTIMORE, Md. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) spent three days in Baltimore, Maryland, giving back to the local community during a visit to the ship's namesake, July 31-Aug. 2.
With USS Fort McHenry preparing for deployment and a homeport change to Mayport, Florida, 12 Sailors volunteered their last weekend in Norfolk, Virginia.
They paid homage to their namesake and connect with the community by learning about its historical importance, refurbishing the fort, visiting with children at a local hospital, presenting colors at Orioles Park at Camden Yards and helping restock a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
"My crew did a wonderful job in the few days we had here and I am very proud of them and their willingness to give up their last weekend in Norfolk to support this," said Cmdr. Thomas Ulmer, Fort McHenry's commanding officer. "I have been told by a lot of people that they went above and beyond expectations and have truly impacted the community in a positive way."
Sailors were also positively impacted during several events, to include a visit with children at Mount Washington Pediatrics Hospital. Smiles were abundant as Sailors hugged and played with the young patients.
"We came out here to teach the kids about our ship and spend some time telling them about what we do," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Jorge Vargas. "It was a great experience to spend time with the kids and watch their faces light up as we told them stories. It was a very rewarding experience."
Sabrina Denson, Child Life Specialist, organized the visit in an effort to expose the children to different people and experiences, as well as to raise their spirits.
"I think the event went wonderfully and you could tell the kids really enjoyed it," said Denson. "It is important for the kids to be exposed to new people and things so they see what is out there waiting for them."
Hull Technician 2nd Class Dustin Crawford is a Baltimore native who especially enjoyed giving back to his hometown. He and his shipmates spent time repairing shutters at the fort as well as stocking shelves and arraying inventory at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
"I really enjoyed working at the fort and being a part of the history," said Crawford. "It has been a great chance to show the community that we care and you can see the positive impact we have been able to have almost immediately."
The visit ended with Tattoo, a military ceremony at Fort McHenry reenacting the era when drums signaled "Taps," the time when local taps were shut off in taverns and troops were required to return to their barracks for the rendering of honors at sunset.
"I am excited about our ship's opportunity to participate in Fort McHenry's Tattoo and was honored to serve as Honorary Colonel of the Fort McHenry Guard," said Ulmer. "It has been a wonderful opportunity to connect the ship with her namesake - it is a very humbling experience."
The event featured performances by the Navy Ceremonial Band and Drill team as well as the Fort McHenry Guard, donned in period attire of September 1814 defense of Baltimore against enemy invasion. It was the defense of Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem of the same name, which when set to music, was renamed the Star-Spangled Banner.
Following an inspection of the performers, Ulmer lit off a cannon salute ending the festivities.
USS Fort McHenry is currently underway in preparation for an upcoming deployment as part of the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Amphibious Ready Group.
For more news from Expeditionary Strike Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/esg2/.