Independence Day celebrations have been canceled at the Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, both in North Carolina. Closer home, the Fourth of July celebration at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany also has been canceled. Other bases that are scrapping traditional Independence Day events are Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
Blame it on budget cuts and furloughed workers that “also mean furloughed fireworks,” per the Army Times. Brig. Gen. Thomas Gorry, commanding general of Camp Lejeune, said the no-fireworks decision would “ensure that we can mitigate the fiscal challenges we are currently facing.” The base’s 2012 celebration of Independence Day costs about $100,000, including $25,000 for fireworks. By foregoing the traditional activities, the base doesn’t have to pay overtime for security, transportation, logistics and safety — which officials said they couldn’t justify at a time when federal employees are furloughed.
While the military bases were scrapping their Fourth of July celebrations because of budgetary constraints, their commander-in-chief and his family were taking a week-long trip/vacation to Africa at an estimated cost of $60 million to $100 million. According to news reports, the trip required numerous Secret Service agents and staff with military cargo aircraft hauling 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three truckloads of bulletproof glass for windows at the places where President Obama and his family stayed.
It’s too bad Obama couldn’t spare some of the pocket change, say a few hundred thousand, to cover the Independence Day celebrations at military bases for the men and women that defend our freedoms every day. The same can be said of the cancellation of White House tours purportedly because of the sequester.
Obama has even come under fire from a fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, who said the president should lead by example. “We do question the need for such expensive trips when so many folks across the country are being forced to cut back because Congress can’t get its act together,” Barrow said. “These are hard times.” At least for many Americans that are out of work. Barrow said, “One hundred million dollars could be better used to keep folks on the job.”
How do military families feel about the canceling of Fourth of July celebrations? The Army Times interviewed Brandy Rhoad Stowe, whose husband is a master gunnery sergeant who has been deployed seven times to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. She said she and her children, ages 3 and 9, will miss the fireworks that have been spectacular at Camp Lejeune.
“What is the Fourth of July without fireworks?” she asked. “It’s like the Grinch stealing Christmas.”
That says it all.