NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- More than 6,000 service men and women are in New York City for this year's Fleet Week.
The annual event kicked off Wednesday with a parade of ships through New York Harbor and up the Hudson River.
Fleet Week is a celebration of the Navy, Marine and Coast Guard teams who protect our shores and gives New Yorkers a chance to meet those service members in person.
Mike Hallahan, a former Intrepid crew member, said Fleet Week also gives people a glimpse of New York's past.
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"At one time, this whole river was full of these ships," he told CBS 2's Jessica Schneider. "Most of service members don't wear uniforms, but they have to for Fleet Week. That's the way old New York used to look."
As ships made their way up the Hudson, there was excitement from kids who got to take their history lessons out of the classroom and onto the water.
"It's the best time for us to come and we're all really excited," said South Orange Middle School student Kelli Dios.
Nancy Sullivan of Rahway, New Jersey came out Wednesday to watch her husband. He's the vice principal of Linden High School and was given the chance to sail in on the USS Wasp from Norfolk, Virginia with ROTC cadets from the school.
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"Very exciting, it's great to be here," she said.
Ruthanne Salreno traveled from Youngstown, Ohio hoping to get a glimpse of her 23-year-old son aboard the USS Mitscher.
"What did it feel like when it went by?", CBS 2's Cindy Hsu asked Salreno. "I had chills everywhere. It was amazing, it was so amazing. I was yelling to the ship, I wanted to yell, 'your mom loves you, but I couldn't do that,'" Salreno said.
Fleet Week is also a chance for many veterans to feel appreciated. Alan Hargrove, 66, served in Vietnam. This is the first time he's attending fleet week, Hsu reported. "My heart skips a beat sometimes but it makes me feel good, Hargrove said. "It's taken a long time but it makes me feel good."
The U.S. Navy's lineup includes guided-missile destroyers and the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
Another highlight is the Eagle. The three-masted barque was built in 1936 as a German training ship. It's now used to train cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.
This years marks the 25th anniversary of Fleet Week New York as well as the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
To promote the bicentennial, the organization Operation Sail says 17 tall ships from around the world will also be in the city. The large vessels are rigged with traditional sails.
Military ships from Japan, Canada, Finland and the United Kingdom will also be docked around the city.
The public will be able to visit the ships and there will be demonstrations, performances, military flyovers and other events around the city.
For more information, visit fleetweeknewyork.com.
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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