When the Marine Corps throws a bash, they don’t just go big – they go explosive.
Marine Corps Community Services hosted a huge July Fourth Celebration at W.P.T. Hill field aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune that included country musician Chris Cavanaugh, a naturalization ceremony, patriotic music by the 2nd Marine Division Band, moon-bounces and for the children, the occasional snow cone tie-dyed t-shirt.
America’s birthday party at MCB Camp Lejeune was exciting, but what truly made this event so memorable were the diverse reasons of what brought family and friends together to celebrate.
Some service members and dedicated civilian employees worked the holiday to provide a safe and entertaining evening to the public, others enjoyed their time off, a few spouses and family members of deployed loved ones also came. Everyone who gathered had one thing in common – knowing and respecting the sacrifices made so others may celebrate an Independence Day.
Cavanaugh, whose parents both served in the Marine Corps, looked forward to playing for such a special audience.
“It’s always incredible to see and meet the men and women who have sacrificed so much,” he said. “I can’t imagine being in their or their families’ shoes. It’s a real honor to be here.”
While some service members celebrated their freedom overseas, their loved ones at home made the best out of the day.
“My husband is currently deployed with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines,” said Damari Lozoya, who was with her daughter enjoying the music and snow cones. This is the family’s third deployment and the first one her daughter is aware of because she was born during the last one. “The holidays are not the same without him.”
The family recently moved to North Carolina and feels comforted knowing there is strong support and plenty of great events at MCB Camp Lejeune.
The support comes from thousands of dedicated people working to make each day better than the next, she said.
What made this party explosive – quite literally – however, was the outstanding fireworks display.
The lead-up to the fireworks began with the M101A1 Howitzers firing in conjunction with 2nd MarDiv Band’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and ended with the grand finale of arguably one of the best fireworks shows in North Carolina.
Sgt. William Mullen, an artillery section chief from 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines, and his crew of Marines volunteered to work the holiday with the responsibility of firing the Vietnam-era Howitzers during the 21-gun-salute at noon with patriotic music before the big show.
“We’ve been practicing on and off for the past month doing test fires to make sure everything goes right,” said Mullen. “Today is just another day like any other, we’re just shooting to music.”
The execution was flawless and their practice paid off, as did the efforts of the 2nd MarDiv Band, who performed when the explosives were shot. The band plays at numerous venues each year, but the fourth of July is one of the largest events they play.
When asked if he felt like he missed his holiday, Cpl. Andrew Zheng, a saxophone player for the band, quickly replied, “Not at all. I enjoy this. I enjoy entertaining people.”
The band played a number of old tunes mixed with newer beats, including songs by Toby Keith and Adele. Their performance succeeded the naturalization ceremony, which celebrated 24 Marines and sailors’ first Independence Day as American citizens.
Cpl. J.R. Sigrah was granted his citizenship at the ceremony. Born in the Federated States of Micronesia, Sigrah hits his three-year mark serving in the Marine Corps this month. He explained the actual process to obtain citizenship was about a five-month wait but worth it.
“The United States has done too much for my family,” said Sigrah. “My dad was in the Army. I needed to add a bit of competition.”
Sigrah and many of the people in attendance had their family and friends to celebrate with, but duty called for others who were unable to spend time with their families this Independence Day.
Aside from the fantastic fireworks display at the end of the night, stories like Lozoya, Zheng, Mullen and Sigrahs’ give reason to why this Fourth of July celebration aboard MCB Camp Lejeune is remarkable – while many in attendance serve to protect the nation, everyone in the crowd was there to celebrate America, fully cognizant of the sacrifices others have made and are making each day for our freedom.