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Pawleys Island: It isn't too early to plan for the Fourth of July

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

With Christmas just days away, the town of Pawleys Island this week turned its thoughts briefly to the Fourth of July.

Town Council agreed at a special meeting that it will again sponsor a flyover of military jets as part of its Independence Day parade. Salute from the Shore began in 2010 as an idea of a couple of Columbia businessmen who have vacation homes at Litchfield Beach. The idea was to show support for the nation’s armed forces.

The effort has grown since then, said John Michael Otis, one of the organizers and nephew of Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis.

“We have people coming to us asking ‘How can we help grow this event,’ ” he said.

Salute from the Shore, a registered nonprofit, is starting early to get approval from the Department of Defense for the 2012 event. The first year, it applied five times before getting the process right, Otis said. With Pentagon approval, organizers have to find a military unit willing to undertake the flight. In 2010, they got a C-17 cargo jet from Charleston Air Force Base. This year, four F-16s from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter made the flyover.

“The expectation is that the Air Force is going to be cutting back on civilian support missions,” Otis said, so the group wants to have a “four-ship flyover” secure.

Eventually, organizers would like to have aircraft from all branches of the service.

“They’re run as training missions. We’re not extracting resources from the military,” Otis said. “But we’re aware of the perception.”

So is the Air Force. A spokesman for Shaw Air Force Base said this year’s flyover was one of only two approved this year.

“We have teriffic support for Shaw Air Force Base,” Otis said.

Although Pawleys Island is the sponsor, the flyover runs the length of the South Carolina coast. Video shot by chase aircraft of people on the beach waving flags is posted online and sent to military units overseas.

“It’s a powerful and moving event. People don’t understand until they see it,” Otis said.

Salute from the Shore uses sponsorships to pay for the video and to help promote the event. They want to get even more people on the shore in 2012, Otis said.

Town Council members are pleased with their role as sponsors. Council Member Sarah Zimmerman said the F-16s in this year’s flyover made the event more exciting. In a nod to the town’s part in the event, the jets circled over the ocean in front of Pawleys Pier before continuing south along the coast.

Council Member Mike Adams also liked the F-16s, but said his wife preferred the C-17 because it was slower and took longer to fly by. It took the fighters 20 minutes to fly the length of the coast.

“The reaction has been tremendous,” said Otis, who has gone to the Pawleys Island Fourth of July Parade all his life. “We’re hoping this will continue to be something to augment the parade.”

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