The Pentagon is currently considering a White House request to have the US military participate in the Trump administration’s planned Fourth of July celebrations, officially referred to as the “Salute to America.”
“The Department of Defense is currently considering a request to support this year’s Salute to America,” a Defense Department official told CNN Thursday.
The official said that “it is not unusual for the Defense Department to support such requests with aerial displays, bands, or other ceremonial support,” adding that “any potential support would be in coordination with the White House Military Office, the Department of the Interior, and with local authorities.”
While no formal decisions have been made, two defense officials told CNN that one option under consideration is a military flyover or series of flyovers that would take place over Washington, DC, or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and involve dozens of military aircraft.
CNN reported that President Donald Trump remains intent on holding an Independence Day celebration in Washington this year despite opposition from Democrats and local lawmakers.
Ten Democrats in Congress wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper Tuesday advising against holding a celebration due to the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
“We write to express our serious concern about reports that President Trump plans to hold a second ‘Salute to America’ for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans. Further, this event would come at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars while we are facing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the pandemic,” they added, saying “We urge you to immediately suspend any plans of such an event.”
The White House on Wednesday said Trump was still planning on holding some type of celebration but did not specify any details.
“As President Trump has said, there will be an Independence Day celebration this year and it will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. “The American people have shown tremendous courage and spirit in the fight against this global pandemic just as our forefathers did in the fight to secure our independence, and both deserve celebration on America’s birthday this year.”
Trump has said he’ll head west this year to view fireworks above Mount Rushmore on July 3, a display that hasn’t happened in more than a decade.
A military flyover option could avoid some of the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic’s spread as opposed to a more conventional parade on the ground.
The US Navy’s Blue Angels and US Air Force’s Thunderbirds recently carried out a series of fly overs in support of medical personnel participating in the coronavirus response.
Last year’s “Salute to America” event also included military fly overs involving jets and helicopters from the various military branches as well as the presidential aircraft Air Force One and Marine One.
The event also involved the participation of military bands and drill teams.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.