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Oct. 13 - Today as Americans prepare to go to church, watch a football game or enjoy the fall foliage, Sailors are standing watch around the world. On any given day, an Aegis destroyer is on patrol in the Eastern Mediterranean. A submarine is on patrol in the depths of the North Atlantic. A Carrier Strike Group is launching and recovering aircraft in the Pacific. Today, USNS Comfort is providing much needed aid to a tumultuous region. None of these events is considered extraordinary because they seem routine, but I submit they are extraordinary. Therefore, today on the 244th birthday of America’s Navy, I want to personally extend my gratitude to every Sailor who served before me and every Sailor standing watch today. I can think of no better place to extend those best wishes than here in Hampton Roads - America’s Navy Town.

Our waters have born witness to some of history’s most famous naval encounters including the “Battle of the Capes” and “The Clash of The Ironclads.” Our residents launched President Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, then a generation later under President Franklin Roosevelt, they built, trained and sailed the 100-ship armada landing U.S. forces in North Africa for Operation Torch. Today, from Old Point Comfort to the Virginia Beach oceanfront, residents and visitors alike stop and look at the explicit might of US military power as carrier strike groups depart and return to their homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval facility. Hampton Roads is America’s Navy Town.

When you shop at a supermarket, see a movie or walk down the street, there is a very good chance whoever is checking your groceries, selling your ticket, or walking past you has a Navy connection. This area is home to more than 300,000 people with a direct tie to the Navy. Nearly 90,000 active duty Sailors are homeported here, in addition to more than 9,000 reservists. Those Sailors have more than 100,000 family members alongside them here in our community, where we are a proud part of the fabric of this great community. The Navy employs 53,000 civilians in Hampton Roads and almost 60,000 Navy retirees call this home. All told, these thousands of people support five nuclear aircraft carriers, more than 70 surface ships and submarines, and 35 aircraft squadrons. We are proud to call this area home, as Hampton Roads is America’s Navy Town.

Hampton Roads is home to critical shipbuilding, repair and refit facilities that keep our Navy the premier sea power on the globe. You build the world’s most advanced nuclear powered aircraft carrier and most capable attack submarines. You refit our ships with the latest technologies. You repair and replace components on our ships from the anchors on the bow to the propellers at the stern. This area is quickly becoming known as the Harvard of shipbuilding apprentices. Hampton Roads is America’s Navy Town.

Finally, let an old Sailor tell a quick sea story. As a young officer, I served aboard the Guided Missile Cruiser USS Leyte Gulf. This month we mark the 75th anniversary of the naval battle for which that ship is named. The Battle of Leyte Gulf effectively cleared the Imperial Japanese Navy from the water during a four-day sea battle that historians consider the largest in history. That victory cleared the way for Allied ground forces, led by General Douglas MacArthur, to join with Filipino patriots to wrest control of that island nation. Seventy-five years have passed since Leyte Gulf and it is now a distant event in a larger conflict whose warriors number fewer in the passing years. Please take this moment to remember this important battle in naval history and the brave sailors who victoriously fought there. Finally, please do me a favor today, on the 244th birthday of your Navy. When you see a Sailor, give a nod, shake a hand, or just say “Thank You.” We are Hampton Roads and we are America’s Navy Town.

Rear Adm. Charles W. “Chip” Rock is the commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, headquartered in Norfolk. Rock commands 14 major Navy installations across 20 states, including five major Navy installations in Hampton Roads

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