Louisville Troop Support Shines Bright

By Petty Officer 1st Class Lucinda Thierry, USN
American Forces Press Service

LOUISVILLE, Ky., April 24, 2007 - A senior Navy leader lauded Louisville for its "America Supports You" spirit as hundreds of sailors participated in Louisville Navy Week, April 16-21.

America Supports You is a Defense Department program that spotlights and facilitates support for the nation's servicemembers by the American public and the corporate sector.

"The Navy and Louisville enjoyed a busy six days, culminating in Thunder Over Louisville," a six-hour air show capped by the largest annual fireworks show in America, said Navy Rear Adm. Michael C. Vitale, who commands Strike Group Two aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

"Louisville can be very proud of its military as a whole, realizing these servicemembers are serving around the world with pride and honor," the University of Louisville graduate added.

Navy Week events included tours, speaking engagements and media appearances, along with visits to local Navy commands. Vitale and Petty Officer 1st Class Virginia D. Mayo, a hospital corpsman who recently returned from Iraq duty with the U.S. Marines, threw the ceremonial first pitch at a Louisville Bats vs. Norfolk Tides triple-A International League baseball game.

"The goal is to lift up troops serving in harm's way around the globe, about 12,000 of (whom) are sailors in ground jobs serving alongside Army and Marine troops in Iraq and Afghanistan," Vitale said. The stadium also held a moment of silence for the Virginia Tech tragedy, with sailors in dress whites lining the baselines.

The USS Louisville crew came in from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to add to community awareness and recruiting efforts by visiting local schools, meeting corporate leaders, attending receptions and viewing local attractions.

"We'll definitely come back again," said Cmdr. John A. Sager, Louisville commanding officer. The sub crew had not made a visit to its namesake city in nearly three years.

The Navy Band Midsouth's "Freedom" band performed all week at high schools and at downtown's "Fourth Street Live!"

"We pan the audience to determine how to connect with our music," said Chief Petty Officer Christopher Griffin. "We played rock and roll, from old school funk to U2," he said. Judging from the dancing in the street and at all the schools, the band hit the mark.

The Navy Parachute Team's Leap Frogs also jumped, landing inside school stadiums, Louisville Slugger Field and the Great Lawn along the Ohio River banks to bring in the flag and open Thunder Over Louisville.

With perfect weather and roaring audiences, the Navy Seals master jumpers wowed crowds all week at area schools. The team includes Chief Warrant Officer Larry Summerfield II, who was wounded three years ago on an Afghanistan mission and received the Purple Heart. His shipmate, Petty Officer 1st Class Dave Fisher, had a proud moment when he brought in the "America Supports You" banner to start Thunder Over Louisville in front of a record crowd of about 800,000.

"Louisville has been one of our best weeks ever," said Fisher. "The patriotism of this town is in our face. Everywhere we go, people call out to us, 'Thank you for serving."

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Lucinda Thierry is assigned to the Navy Office of Community Outreach.)

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