Salute from the Shore back for third year

Five Air Force F-16s flown by the 79th Fighter Squadron, “The Flying Tigers,” of the 20th Fighter Wing, stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, near Sumter, will buzz by in flight pattern on July 4.

For “Salute from the Shore III,” beachgoers along the whole S.C. coast are again asked to wear red, white and blue and wave for a military flyover.

For folks on Grand Strand beaches, the flight begins at 1 p.m. at Little River, going south along the Grand Strand, past Charleston, Beaufort and down to Hilton Head Island by 1:30 p.m.

Crews will be filming from the cockpits for posting of footage at salutefromtheshore.org, and onlookers also are asked to share their videos and photos as well.

John Michael Otis, president of the Salute effort, discussed how this annual event has evolved since the inaugural coastal flyover with a single cargo transport plane July 4, 2010. A group of vacationing Columbia families, after sitting on Litchfield Beach and reflecting about the luxury of being able to enjoy the Fourth while so many troops were deployed, first suggested its start and later won support from Pawleys Island town officials.

One member of that entourage, John Folsom of Columbia, said after the 2011 event that coordinators visited Shaw to thank brass there for taking part. He said the lead pilot told him, “You don’t need to be thanking us. We need to be thanking you for the opportunity you gave these four pilots, the maintenance crew on the ground, and the commander of the Shaw Air Force Base to show our appreciaition.”

Otis also said if anyone up toward the start of the 2012 flyover toward Cherry Grove Beach sees any pilots making some rounds in Air Force jets, getting ready for their view and journey to catch on camera, “a little early, that’s probably them getting some shots.”

Question | How has this endeavor that covers all of South Carolina evolved the past two years?

Answer | The first one was a determined, hard thing to organize and get the approval for. The Defense Department had never seen anything like this before. Working with the Defense Department has come with a strong relationship with the good folks at the Shaw Air Force Base, so we have figured out how to navigate the process ... to make this event even more special.

Q. | How did the players for 2012 come together, and might such moments in the air be more even more remarkable for the pilots, seeing such patriotism and American spirit lining the beaches, than for the people who turn out in droves for the thrill of that fly-by in mere seconds?

A. | This squadron was part of the last U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq. They flew air support while the ground forces closed the gates behind them, so we’re very honored to have them involved. ... It is just as memorable for the pilots. ... They’ve seen the blogs we posted last year.

Q. | So this has become a tradition for local residents and vacationers to add to their family Fourth of July celebrations, a different kind of way to ignite feelings of thanks to the military?

A. | There are a lot of people who spend a lot of time to put this together, and it’s so well received with appreciation.

Q. | How do the pilots see our curve of the coastline as they whirl by in a statewide breeze that’s done in just a half-hour?

A. | For the pilots, they see where the people are likely to swarm in the likely hot spots. They see a ton of people from North Myrtle Beach down through Surfside Beach and Garden City Beach, and down through Pawleys Island, as far as the Strand goes. What’s interesting is that every year, 15 minutes before departure, you see waves of people ... and the beaches fill up ... up and down the coast. A huge surge come out before the start of the trip.

Q. | How do onlookers make their individual ways to show their thanks?

A. | We heard about someone the first year who had been presented with a flag on the burial of a loved one, and he took that flag out and waved it. It’s really special for a lot of people. There are many such stories we have over and over, and we hope this event always unites all of South Carolina.

Q. | Any special tips for anyone who wants to take part?

A. | We just want to have everybody show up and wear red, white and blue.

Q. | What other added assets are on the agenda for the 2012 flyover, so that people make sure to wait after the jets whirl by?

A. | This year, we will have some private World War II aircraft, and they will host several veterans. ... They will actually fly behind the jets. They will start at about the same spot, and go from North Myrtle Beach to about Charleston or Folly Beach, depending on how far their fuel with stretch.