Special sailor unit visits Town
Seven U.S. Navy sailors assigned to the fifth ship named in honor of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut visited the community last week, taking part in 34th Annual Farragut Independence Day Parade among numerous community activities — in a six-day stay in Town — as part of what is believed to be the first of its kind visit to Farragut.
Assigned to the USS Farragut DDG 99 are Cmdr./Executive Officer Tom Roberts, hull maintenance technician Chief Petty Officer John Franco, logistics specialist First Class Petty Officer Matthew Fernandez, personnel specialists Second Class Petty Officer Mark DelaCruz, electronics technician Second Class Petty Officer Jennifer Parsons, hospital corpsman Second Class Petty Officer Samantha Polidan and culinary specialist Second Class Petty Officer Kevin Diaz.
They arrived in the area Saturday, July 2, kicking off a whirlwind tour with guidance and input from Town Tourism manager Karen Tindal.
“The Navy tries to do these namesake visits, but this is the first one our ship has done in a long time,” Roberts said. “It is part of promoting community engagement with the Towns or the families after who the ships are named.”
The trip was quickly arranged about three weeks in advance of the visit, Tindal said, and occurred apparently at the suggestion of one of dozens of former USS Farragut sailors who visited Farragut last October during the group’s semi-annual reunion, held in Farragut for the first time.
“It’s been the first namesake tour I have been on, and it has been great,” Franco said Wednesday, July 6, in-between helping unload museum artifacts. “I had no idea until three or four months ago, there was a town named Farragut.
“We’ve met a lot of great people — everyone has been very nice and hospitable and willing to help, and it’s nice to be here to establish a connection,” he added.
“I have loved being here,” Polidan said. “I live on a ship, so it is very nice to see the mountains. I love Tennessee.”
In addition to the parade being a draw, Roberts said Admiral Farragut’s July 5 birthday was another reason the group was set on the visit’s timing.
The unit met with local elected Town and county officials, including Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs — also nationally known as former WWE superstar “Kane.” “Several of them were really excited to meet Kane,” Roberts said.
Among their other activities, the group threw out the first pitch at a Tennessee Smokies Baseball game Sunday, July 3, in Kodak.
“It was really important to them, during the visit, to engage with the community and have a community service project,” Tindal said. “They had hoped to do something with one of our schools, but it just could not be arranged.
“We did need assistance moving the museum items, so that was a great help for us,” she added.
The trip concluded with a presentation Thursday, July 7, in Town Hall’s rotunda, of a plaque from the ship’s crew to the Town, featuring the USS Farragut insignia. It will be hung alongside plaques in Town Hall from the four previous vessels named for the Admiral.
The sailors stayed in various locations while in the Farragut area. Roberts had traveled with his wife, Tara, whose parents, Park and Sue Masterson, just recently moved to Lenoir City from Farragut.
The unit returned to Mayport base, just outside of Jacksonville, Florida, during the weekend and will deploy in August. “We are hoping this namesake visit will set a precedent and become a tradition for this ship and others in the future,” Franco stated via e-mail.