Kittery welcomes USS New Mexico crewPortsmouth Herald, N.H. — Alex LaCasse Portsmouth Herald, N.H.
Dec. 07--KITTERY, Maine -- Town administrators and community and business leaders took a moment Wednesday to welcome roughly 150 sailors and their families from the USS New Mexico to Kittery while the submarine undergoes regular maintenance at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
A ceremony was held in their honor in the Star Theatre at the Kittery Community Center. The ceremony included food and refreshments donated by local restaurants and businesses. Each crewmember was given a gift bag containing a coupon book to the Kittery Outlets, a gift certificate to the Beach Pea Baking Co. and maps from the York Chamber of Commerce. Town Manager Kendra Amaral said it is also the town's tradition to give each sailor a season pass to Fort Foster.
"We're here to help introduce you to our home and share our tastes with you and give you a chance to meet some of us in town and meet our council so you can start to make that connection to help you feel like you're home here in Kittery," said Amaral. "We want to thank everyone in the community for helping us welcome the entire crew of the USS New Mexico."
Amaral said she wanted to recognize all of the businesses that donated food and prizes for the New Mexico's crew, which included AJ's Wood Grill, The View at Pepperell Cove, Anneke Jans, Rudder's Public House, Anju, The Wallingford Dram, Black Birch, Weathervane Seafood Restaurant and Lil's Café and Bob's Clam Hut. She said raffle items were provided gift certificates to Beach Pea Baking Co., Lil's Café, When Pigs Fly Pizzeria, Take Flight Aerial Adventure Course, Tributary Brewing Company, Yummies Candy and Nut and Carl's Meat Market.
The New Mexico's captain, Cmdr. Daniel Reiss, said the Kittery community had welcomed the crew with open arms, "since day one" when the New Mexico arrived at the shipyard back in September.
"We come from a small town and to come to another small town that is so welcoming and frankly recognizes what it means to be a Navy town, it means a lot to all of us," said Reiss, who hails from western Pennsylvania. "We hope to be able to continue to be a part of the town and continue to integrate and participate and help serve in the town you all serve."
Crew members said they have been impressed with the work ethic among the shipyard workers in getting their submarine back into service ahead of schedule.
"Compared to other shipyards, this is the most organized shipyard I've been on; you feel like they really care about the ship," said Lt. Mike Gillete, who is originally from Rochester, New York. "The work is actually a few weeks ahead of schedule, no other shipyard you'll get sent to works ahead of schedule."
Town Council Chairman Ken Lemont said Kittery's dedication to supporting the sailors who have to stay in Kittery when their submarine is being serviced is part of what makes Kittery a special military town.
"It's great to have the crew of the New Mexico as a part of our community and participating in our community for the next 18 months," said Lemont. "This is what Kittery is all about and we're really glad they picked us to be their host community and we want to welcome them all with open arms."
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