May 26, 2005

The last time I slept on a ship it was on a rack about the size of a gym locker turned sideways, stacked three or four high. This time around, the Navy hooked me up with a private room. It had a real bed, a sink, and a TV that worked. I actually watched the NBA playoffs in my quarters before falling asleep both nights as we made our way from Boston to New York City aboard the USS John F. Kennedy.

The coolest part of the experience was being on the flight deck, just a few feet from the edge of the wings of Hornet Fighter Jets and Hawkeye planes, as they were catapulted off the floating runway, going 0-160 mph in two seconds flat.

The Navy took very good care of my crew and me. We had three hot meals a day, access to the CATCC air traffic control room, captain's bridge, and ship's store, and even enjoyed live entertainment one evening. The New York City USO Team came along for the ride to New York harbor, and put on a show in the hangar bay Tuesday night. They also sang an acappella version of "In the Mood" for us at breakfast one morning, which was fun.

We were a bit worried about the weather, since it was windy and rainy all week. The ship's navigator took us further out to sea than originally planned to avoid the worst of the storm, but we still had to pass through some rough stuff on our way into the city. It was freezing cold and nasty out, but the chop wasn't too bad, certainly nothing "Big John" couldn't handle. I definitely felt some slow rolls on our journey, but none of us got sick.

Every experience I have with any branch of the armed forces only solidifies my respect for the young men and women serving our country. I've written about this before, but I don't think it can be said enough how lucky we are to have such capable people doing such important jobs, defending our freedoms and keeping America safe and strong. They deserve our thanks, and that's what Fleet Week is all about.


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[Ed. note: Click the video tab in the upper right to watch Leventhal's reports.]

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Dear Rick,

Thank you very much for all the interest that you and FOX are putting in our sailors. My son Edison B Jaya is one of the sailors aboard the USS Kennedy. Iā€™m sending him and all the other sailors a lot of hugs and kisses. We are so PROUD OF YOU GUYS. ENJOY YOUR FLEET WEEK, HAVE FUN.

ā€” Elena

Having served on Big John for four years (79-83) and having done 2 med cruises and an IO cruise (Indian Ocean), nothing ever beat Boston. NYC has a tough act to follow, I just don't see it happening.

Good luck

-Paul
G-5 Flight Deck Ordnance (formally)

Rick,

I first want to let you know how much I love and respect your work - I've followed you since the war started. You see my Army son J.R. Rickard was w/the 3rd ID, Combat Engineers, when we invaded Baghdad, and was awarded the Bronze Star.

And now you are on board the JFK with my son petty officer John Ryan Rickard. Tell him "Hi" from mom, give him your autograph for me - please!

ā€” Proud military mom and wife, Jan


Hi Rick,

Two of my daughters are serving together on the Kennedy. Thanks for writing the article and I hope to catch your reports on FOX! We all miss them and can't wait to see them in NYC.

A very proud Navy Mom!
ā€” Jo-Ann (West Chester, PA)

BTW-Good Luck in the rough sea! Hold on tight!