National City Celebrates San Diego Sailors of the Year
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Justin L. Webb, Naval Base San Diego Public Affairs
NATIONAL CITY, Calif. -- National City Chamber of Commerce celebrated more than 15 Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) Sailors and nearly 200 San Diego based service members during the 56th annual Salute to Navy Luncheon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center Oct. 3.

This event began in October 1957 by Capt. Bob Mereness as a way to pay tribute to the local military community while bringing together Sailors, civilians, and elected officials for a celebratory banquet.

This is the first and longest running event of its kind in the United States, and National City plans to continue to keep this tradition alive.

"We appreciate the partnership with have with Naval Base San Diego and National City," said Salute to Navy Chair Melyn Acasio. "We think it's important to recognize these military members who have done so much in our community."

Guest speaker Dr. John Nachison, co-founder of Stand Down for homeless veterans and their families, who organized the first San Diego community Summit to address the ongoing needs of returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) veterans and their families, thanked San Diego Sailors and Marines for their efforts in the fight against homelessness in the local community.

"Today we know that 25 percent of all the homeless on the street and one third of men are veterans," said Nachison. "This is a national disgrace and here we are 25 years later and we are still working on this problem. We couldn't have made the impact that we have without our active duty military. I want to thank you for coming out every year to Stand Down to help us set up and for being a part of this program. Stand Down for me is really about taking homeless vets off the streets and reminding them that they served in the military."

"This was the first time I've heard about Stand Down," said Master-At-Arms 2nd Class Shaniya Brillant. "I look forward to volunteering next year because I believe his program is a great way to support our veterans and give them the hope for a better future."

Naval Base San Diego Commanding Officer Capt. Winton Smith paid tribute to National City and gave them a traditional U.S Navy bell.

"The age-old practice of sounding the bell during watches on the hour and half hour is symbolic of our Navy's hallmark efforts and is appropriate in our nuclear- and missile-oriented Navy at the dawn of the 21st effort as it ever was. From our historic sailing vessels in the late Eighteenth century to every command today, it signals that someone stands the watch...This bell, as it reminds us of that enduring tradition, is a reminder of the great friendship that we have with this city," he said.

"Today's event was very successful. I am so thankful to National City for paying tribute to our Sailors," added Brillant.

National City holds this event every year during the month of October and jointly celebrates the Navy's birthday.

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