Less than two years after opening, the Tribute Center welcomed the 500,000th visitor in May 2008.
The half-million visitor was Lt. Jeremy E. Vellón, USN Assistant Air Officer on the USS Kearsarge, who visited the Tribute Center with his family during Fleet Week.
A native of Brooklyn, Vellón and his family were honored to mark the occasion with Tribute founders Lee Ielpi and Jennifer Adams. “I have no words to properly describe what this opportunity to visit meant for my family and me,” said Lt. Vellón. He lost friend and classmate Darin Pontell in the Pentagon attack, and was deployed the week after September 11, 2001 onboard USS Bataan for Operation Enduring Freedom. Lt. Vellon also provided humanitarian assistance to the Bangladeshi victims of Cyclone Sidr with the crew of the Kearsarge during Operation Sea Angel II.
After touring the Center, Lt. Vellon stated, “Thanks for this honor on behalf of the sailors, marines and coastguardsmen visiting New York City for Fleet Week 2008. I hope to serve my country as long as she’ll let me.”