Each year on the Fourth of July, a group from Columbia organizes “Salute from the Shore,” a flyover of military aircraft along the entire South Carolina coast from the North Carolina border to the Georgia state line.
The crowds on the beach are urged to display American flags, wave and cheer as a video is made of the event from both the air and ground. The video is then posted on the organization’s website as a salute and “thank you” to active military -- both deployed and stateside.
But sequestration — those across-the-board budget cuts mandated by Congress — threatened to ground this year’s event. The 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base reluctantly had to tell the group that they were forbidden from doing flyovers with their F-16s, which previously were the centerpieces of the salute.
“They were very apologetic and offered to help us in any way they can except with planes,” said Andy Folsom, president of the organization.
But the show will go on with a little help.
Vintage military aircraft owners are stepping up to fly their planes up and down the coast as a replacement – and some could be carrying veterans of America’s wars from WWII to Afghanistan.
Barry Avent, a WWII war bird enthusiast and owner, is organizing the flight. He said the planes will not fly the entire length of the coast because of the time it would take to fly vintage aircraft the 300 miles from Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head.
“We’d like to have three or four planes in the Grand Strand, three or four in Charleston and three or four in Hilton Head,” he said. “That way the whole coast will be covered.”
However, operating the aircraft is expensive, especially fuel costs. It’s not just the cost of flying up and down the coast, but from their homes throughout the Southeast. As a result, Folsom said the group is seeking additional financial help – either through private donations or corporate sponsorships.
“We need to help some of these guys out,” Avent said.
First Citizens bank, Colliers International and The Jackson Companies of Surfside Beach already are pitching in to make the salute happen. Those wanting to help can email the group at email@example.com.
The sponsors also would be helping veterans have a memorable Fourth of July. The group would like to take some selected veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan along for the ride in aircraft that is suitable – such as Avent’s C-47 World War II transport and others.
Last year, some World War II veterans went along with Avent. But with the Greatest Generation all in or near their 90s – and given the extreme heat in the un-air conditioned, all-steel airplanes on the Fourth – “this time we’re looking for some younger vets,” Folsom said.
The event had unlikely beginnings five years ago.
While neither military men nor aviation enthusiasts, the four Columbians – Folsom and his father John, attorney Toddy Smith and his son Cam – decided the best way to recognize the troops at the beach was with a flyover. It would remind people what the Fourth of July is meant to commemorate and offer a way for everyone down below to say thank you to the troops.
Salute from the Shore urges visitors to offer their own individual salutes by wearing red, white and blue on the beaches during the flyover. Salute from the Shore also encourages participants to tell their personal stories about why they love America and those who protect it by shooting their own video and images of the event for sharing on social networks to be seen by American Armed Forces deployed throughout the world.
Once complete, the group will edit the footage into a video tribute to U.S. armed forces.
“It’s just a big thank you,” Folsom said. “And we want to salute them on a day we are enjoying the freedoms that they provide for us.”