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July 4th fireworks scrapped at a number of bases

7/1/2013

By JENNIFER C. KERR

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Fourth of July won't have a patriotic boom in the sky over some military bases because budget cuts and furloughed workers also mean furloughed fireworks.

Independence Day celebrations have been canceled at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and at the Army's Fort Bragg, both in North Carolina. The annual July Fourth celebration also has been scrapped at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga.

The reason is money -- namely the lack of it.

The failure in Washington to follow up a 2011 budget pact with additional spending cuts meant $85 billion across-the-board cuts that began in March. Budgets tightened, the military took a significant hit and many federal workers absorbed pay cuts through forced furloughs.

When the decision was made to forgo fireworks at Camp Lejeune, the commanding general, Brig. Gen. Thomas Gorry, said the cancelation would "ensure that we can mitigate the fiscal challenges we are currently facing."

Last year's Independence Day at the base cost approximately $100,000, including $25,000 for the fireworks. The big issue is paying the overtime to personnel for security, transportation, logistics and safety. Base officials said they couldn't justify paying overtime when federal workers are losing pay while furloughed.

Brandy Rhoad Stowe said the fireworks at Camp Lejeune always were spectacular, and she said she and her kids, ages 3 and 9, will miss them this year.

"I know fireworks might seem silly to other people," Stowe said in an interview. "But what is the Fourth of July without fireworks?"

Her husband is a master gunnery sergeant with seven combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

Stowe said she understands the budgets cuts but still feels a little shortchanged.

"It's just a bummer for the kids," she said. "It's like the Grinch stealing Christmas."

Marines and their families at Lejeune instead will be able to participate in some free activities -- golf, bowling, skeet shooting, archery and movies.

Other bases canceling ceremonies to mark the nation's birthday include:

* Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where the annual Jammin' July 4th put on by the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw and local city and county officials has been scrapped. The base plans a smaller "freedom bash" Wednesday with pool games, face painting and bouncy castles.

* The Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, which is scaling back by canceling the fireworks and instead hosting a daytime celebration featuring the Pacific Fleet Band and the Air Force Band of the Pacific.

* New Jersey's Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.