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U.S. Naval Academy celebrates 20 year milestone

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Sailing into their 20th year, the U.S. Naval Academy visited Freeport on Aug. 9-12 as a part of the annual summer sailing training program. Right at high tide and a little bit before 8 a.m., five 65-foot tall, 44-foot-long vessels — the Renaissance, Honor, Courage, Brave and Warrior, docked at the Esplanade on the Nautical Mile.

After sailing 280 miles from Annapolis, Md. a squadron of 50 unloaded at the Esplanade and were welcomed by dozens of Freeporters, elected officials and military veterans.

“It really is a pleasure to be here again,” Naval Academy officer in tactical command, John Formisano, said. “This is my third trip to Freeport as a part of the Navy sailing program.”

According to Formisano, the sailing program is a four-week training program where the midshipmen learn sailing and leadership skills. After a week of classroom training, they sail off the Chesapeake Bay. By the third week, the squadron sets sail for Freeport. The fourth week, the midshipmen will sail the boats themselves during their return to Annapolis just in time to start the school year at the Naval Academy.

Traditionally, after docking, the Midshipmen check in to the Freeport Inn and after resting the naval students, from ages 19 to 25, took turns giving tours of their vessels to Long Islanders through Saturday.

This year, the Midshipmen marched in their summer whites to help commemorate the Freeport Fire Department’s 125th anniversary and celebrations at Sea Breeze Park on Aug. 11. During their stay, the fire department provides transportation to and from the hotel, while the Freeport Recreation Center gives them full access of the facilities and the Freeport Chamber of Commerce gives them “Chamber Bucks” they can use at a number of the Nautical Mile restaurants and shops.

“These are just great kids, the cream of the crop,” Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said. “The [residents of the village] come out and visit their ship. They love having them here. They, [the Midshipmen] are really welcomed here.”