A scheduling coincidence put the U.S. Navy's CPO Pride Day on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but for the sailors who were promoted, it just adds significance to both events.
Two-by-two they marched from the USS Midway to the Embarcadero -- nearly 700 sailors in the Navy's Chief Selectee training program.
The march was part of CPO Pride Day, a celebration of the end of their training.
"This celebrates what it is to become a chief," says Chief Selectee Theresa Buitron, who serves on the USS Kidd. "It's the process we've all been going through the last six weeks."
The process officially ends Wednesday with their formal promotion to chief petty officer. On Friday, they got a chance to meet other Selectees, as well as hundreds of current CPOs.
They gathered at dawn on the deck of the USS Midway for a group picture. The Selectees, dressed in yellow shirts, stood in formation spelling out "CPO Pride" with today's date. The current CPOs wore blue to fill in the gaps and make the words stand out. A helicopter flew above to get pictures.
Senior CPO Raushaun Blue said the day gives the Selectees a great opportunity to get advice from people who have been in their shoes.
"Right out here is over, maybe a million years of experience, combined, in the U.S. Navy," she exclaimed.
But the day also has a somber note. By coincidence, CPO Pride Day also fell on Sept. 11, the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"It holds a certain feeling, emotionally, for a lot of us," Buitron told 10News. "Some people joined the Navy because of September 11. Some people remember serving, where they were on September 11. It's very special."
"It's really huge for a lot of people," added Blue, while holding back tears. "Some of these guys lost people on 9/11. Some were on the waterfront, some ground soldiers out here."
But for other Selectees, the convergence of the two events makes both mean a little more.
"It's like another Fourth of July. You want to see more red, white and blue. You want to see more Americans together," said Chief Selectee Braden Mitchell. "The fact that you have thousands of people who have never met before, but everybody here can call each other brother and sister; it's a pretty good deterrent for what they tried to do to us."
He added this shows the people who tried to destroy the country that America marches forward, no matter what.
"The fact we all got together to celebrate this much heritage, it couldn't have been done any better," said Mitchell.