31st MEU, Bonhomme Richard celebrate 4th of July

by MC1 Ty C. Connors
USS Bonhomme Richard

INDIAN OCEAN – What would the 4th of July be without burgers and hot dogs?

When one serves their country, they must often sacrifice holidays with loved ones, missed school plays and celebrate birthdays on duty. We cannot always trim the tree, watch the ball drop in Times Square or unwrap presents or enjoy classic American comfort food on the 4th.

But this year, the crew of forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD6) is celebrating Independence Day in true American style.

The 4,000 Sailors and Marines on board Bonhomme Richard are throwing a “Steel Beach” 4th of July party to bring a little bit of America far out in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia.

A steel beach is a Navy tradition where the ship slows down, suspends major operations temporarily and the flight deck or weather deck of the vessel are opened to all hands. The crew gathers to soak in some sunshine and the view of the ocean far from land. They enjoy games and good food much like Americans around the world, and take a moment from their busy schedule to reflect on how lucky we all are to be Americans.

“A 4th of July Steel Beach picnic is an important part of the ship's morale,” said Katie Weisbacher, Bonhomme Richard’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Fun Boss. “It helps boost crew morale by providing a reason to be outdoors, to enjoy food on the barbeque, to socialize with friends, and participate in friendly contests. It allows the Sailors and Marines a chance to break from routine and celebrate our nation's Independence Day!”

The steel beach is a welcome relief for the busy crew of an American warship.

“A Steel beach is a great break from routine,” said Chief Damage Controllman Kevin Christopher. “It gives Sailors something enjoyable to do different from the typical day-to-day events.”

Bonhomme Richard’s Steel Beach party included, ladder golf, sumo suits, hula hoops, water balloon toss, squirt gun fights, and a US history presentation.

Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group which is composed of Bonhomme Richard, the 31st MEU, the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).

Happy 4th of July from the Sailors and Marines stationed aboard Bonhomme Richard!

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