Happy Birthday Navy: Still Getting Lei'd?


What do you get the Navy for their 237th birthday? Instead of my usual happy reading of VADM Harold M. Koenig’s “I Like The Navy” essay, I was thinking we should be more festive this year.

I was thinking that it sure would be cute to get out all those leis that the ships wear when they come home from deployment and just live it up.

You know about leis, don’t you? These are gigantic decorations inspired by the Hawaiian lei that are draped across the front of the ship for homecoming.

I’ve seen leis that look like a collection of stringed stars a la Country Living. I’ve seen leis on smaller ships that were made entirely of leaves and natural materials. Most leis are made from nautical line and red, white and blue plastic tablecloths or garbage bags. From a distance they look, well, patriotic.

There is only one problem. As a Navy tradition, leis aren’t quite as cool as some of the stuff other services have for their birthdays and homecomings. The Marine tradition of welcome home signs lining the parade route at homecoming has become something of an art form. A photographic folk art collection of the signs being kept by peace activist Chuck Fager.

Navy leis would be a little harder to collect. After all, a lei big enough to decorate the front of a 41,000 ton lady is prodigious. It barely fits in a minivan. And there isn’t a spare closet on board to store a ship-sized necklace.

It makes it a little harder to be festive. But when we are celebrating a life spent defending our country at sea, getting the Navy lei'd is certainly worth the effort.

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