July 4th fireworks furloughed at military bases

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 major 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 cancellation would “ensure that we can mitigate the fiscal challenges we are currently facing.”

Last year’s Independence Day at the base cost about $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 says the fireworks at Camp Lejeune always were spectacular, and she said that 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 says 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 will instead be able to participate in some free activities — golf, bowling, skeet shooting, archery and movies.

Other bases that are canceling ceremonies to mark the nation’s birthday:

  • 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” on July 3 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.


A Veteran’s story: Crestline WWII vet remains active at 95

i Apr 29th No Comments by

CRESTLINE — At the age of 95, Robert Fisher still mows his lawn, drives his car and opens up the McDonald’s restaurant in Crestline every day at 6 a.m.

“I just like to see the other old timers and swap stories,” the World War II veteran said of his early morning activities.

Fisher, who served with an Army engineer unit in Italy at the very end of World War II, never graduated from Shelby High School.

“I was in the class of 1935, but I didn’t have enough credits to get my degree,” he said.

When he was a freshman, his family broke up and he had a poor academic year as a result. His proudest possession is his brand new high school diploma awarded to him by the Shelby Board of Education on June 4.

“My son, David, and his wife, Bonnie, picked me up that day to have supper over in Shelby,” he said. “Afterward, they took me out to the board meeting at the high school. I had no idea what was coming.

“A few of my cousins and friends were there. Everybody did a good job of keeping it all a secret from me.”

Fisher played on the Shelby Whippet football and basketball teams from 1933 to 1935. He treasures the memories of victories over teams from Mansfield. In 1935, Fisher had 18 points as Shelby topped Mansfield 26-22.

“I was just really hot that day,” he said.

After school, he got a job at the old Shelby Cycle Co.

“They had a pretty good softball team, and I played the outfield for them,” he said.

The problem at Shelby Cycle was the annual winter. So after five years, Fisher moved on to the Seamless Tube Company.

He married Esther May Speelman, of Crestline, and the couple moved into a house on North Wylie.

They had two children, Robert and Marge “my little tomboy,” when Fisher was drafted in 1944.

After taking basic training in Georgia, he was assigned to an engineer unit that was moving on to Italy. He remembers a rough voyage and a lot of sea sickness before his troopship docked at Naples.

“We were replacements, but there was no need since the war was nearly over,” he said.

Instead, the unit was preparing to be shipped to Fort Lewis, Wash.

“We were going to be part of the invasion of Japan, but that didn’t happen,” he said.

So, Fisher came home and took a job with Mansfield Tire Co.

“I worked there until the company closed,” he said. “I was 61 and just took unemployment until I could retire at 62. I really wish I had gone back to the ‘Tuby’ (Seamless Steel Tube Co.) instead of going to Tire.”

In those years, he and Esther May had three more children: David, Bill and Mike. Most of the children became educators, and Bill is now director of the Lowe-Volk Park at Leesville.

Esther May died in 2012 at the age of 90.

“I was four years older than her, and she used to laugh when I told her that when I married her I was ‘robbing the cradle,’ ” he said.

Fisher continues to live in his small home on North Wiley and is active in the Lutheran Church and with the VFW and American Legion.

He still drives to Shelby to see old friends. He may have spent 70 years in Crestline, but his heart is still in Shelby.

Ron Simon is a retired reporter, award-winning columnist and veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. He can be reached at

SOURCE: Mansfield News Journal