PENINSULA — While the marching bands and floats never disappoint, parade-goers this past weekend may have noticed one ever-popular participant that was missing from the lineup — the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter fly-over initiating the start of the parade.
Showcasing the local Coast Guard and other area military branches have been a longstanding tradition of Loyalty Days, but according to a Coast Guard spokesman, their participation was hampered this year due to federal restrictions and budgetary cuts.
“In order to ensure sustainment of our operational missions while integrating the effects of the Budget Control Act, the U.S. Coast Guard has had to re-evaluate our ability to participate in community relations events,” explained Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn of the U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs Detachment in Astoria. “Unfortunately, we have had to cancel Coast Guard fly-overs for most of these events. This is a temporary decision and we will continue to evaluate our participation in the future.”
Littlejohn elaborated, “Original resource hour reductions were estimated to be up to 25 percent. After further examination, and factoring in fuel budgets, Coast Guard District 13 has amended resource hour reductions. Exact numbers cannot be discussed, as a matter of operational security.
“Our key objective is to preserve our ability to meet the highest-priority mission activities, including search and rescue, critical security operations, emergency response, and operational training.”
“The military presence has always been a part of Loyalty Day,” Ilwaco Mayor Mike Cassinelli said Monday. “We were terribly disappointed that the military was not able to participate due to restrictions in their budgets.”
Cassinelli added that he was able to air those concerns to U.S. Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, who made an appearance at the kids’ parade in Ilwaco on Saturday. (In separate news last week, her office disclosed that Herrera Beutler and her husband are expecting their own first child.)
According to Bob Andrew, mayor of Long Beach and Loyalty Days committee member, budgetary limitations also prevented Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 56th Army Band and its color guard from leading the parade.
“Our opinion was that we were saddened by that process because they are of great benefit to the Loyalty Days parade,” Andrew lamented. “But the (Ilwaco) High School band did great at the stage dedication and the Coast Guard color guard led the parade and the band gave great music.”
Andrew said he was glad that auxiliary groups and the National Guard from Camp Rilea were able to attend.
As for the nation’s sequester affecting Loyalty Days, Andrew stated, “We certainly aren’t going to turn down our patriotism due to the decisions made in D.C.”