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An employee manning the Dragon air toy helped feed the big lizard by helping this little fellow into the fire-breather's big mouth on Saturday in Nimitz Park at Sasebo Naval Base's 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program.
An employee manning the Dragon air toy helped feed the big lizard by helping this little fellow into the fire-breather's big mouth on Saturday in Nimitz Park at Sasebo Naval Base's 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
An employee manning the Dragon air toy helped feed the big lizard by helping this little fellow into the fire-breather's big mouth on Saturday in Nimitz Park at Sasebo Naval Base's 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program.
An employee manning the Dragon air toy helped feed the big lizard by helping this little fellow into the fire-breather's big mouth on Saturday in Nimitz Park at Sasebo Naval Base's 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Two-year-old Michael Jones tries his best to get a good start on the rock-climbing wall with help from Michelle Jones, his mother, in Nimitz Park Saturday during the MWR-sponsored 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program.
Two-year-old Michael Jones tries his best to get a good start on the rock-climbing wall with help from Michelle Jones, his mother, in Nimitz Park Saturday during the MWR-sponsored 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program. (Greg Tyler / S&S)
Firefighters from Sasebo Naval Base's Commander Naval Forces Japan Regional Fire Department return a 185-pound fire victim dummy to the starting point for the next competitor during the Combat Firefighting Challenge on Saturday in Nimitz Park during the MWR-sponsored 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program.
Firefighters from Sasebo Naval Base's Commander Naval Forces Japan Regional Fire Department return a 185-pound fire victim dummy to the starting point for the next competitor during the Combat Firefighting Challenge on Saturday in Nimitz Park during the MWR-sponsored 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Battles involving U.S. troops raging in Iraq and Washington seemed half a world or more away Saturday, both literally and figuratively, as base families gathered at Nimitz Park to celebrate Armed Forces Day.

Participants took part in activities including a fun run, bouncing on inflated air toys, scaling a portable rock-climbing wall and watching a grueling combat firefighting competition.

“My kids have really enjoyed watching the firemen over there doing their thing,” said Lt. Dave Stinchfield, a dentist at Sasebo’s Navy Branch Dental Clinic. “They also get a kick out of the big air-filled dragon thing, and the climbing wall.”

Stinchfield’s two children were among the dozens who took part in the Nike-sponsored 2K Fun Run.

“This run is just fantastic fun for the kids. I think all the things available out here today are just great,” he said. “We can be grateful, too, that the weather is as good as it is and everyone can come out with their families.”

Despite the fact that most of the ships are not in port, we’ve had a good turnout,” said Isaiah Mincks, a coordinator of the program cosponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the base shore command. “I mean, I’m impressed with the numbers we’ve seen. I know it’s a better turnout than we’ve had the past four years that I’ve been here.”

Saturday’s events were a week earlier than first planned; a power outage scheduled Saturday at the Hario Housing Village led base officials to reschedule the 2004 Armed Forces Day Sports and Fitness Program for one week ahead of the day’s May 15 observance - a date set by presidential proclamation.

Then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced plans in 1949 to create Armed Forces Day, replacing separate dates honoring individual branches of the military. A proclamation President Harry S. Truman signed in February 1950 made it official, designating the third Saturday of each May as Armed Forces Day.

Mincks was busy helping unload a truck full of speakers and other equipment used by the rock band UVR, a California group that was to play through late afternoon. The Ernest J. King High School Band also participated in the program.

“The Hario power outage is the main reason we changed the date, but I still think there are a lot of Hario residents who went somewhere else, or just stayed there to wait it out,” Mincks said. “It’s helped attendance a little, but not that much.”

He said the smell of good food was also a possible draw.

“We have the Filipino-American Society out here making some good Filipino food, and the 1st Class Association is cooking these big sausages,” he said. “And they both are drawing a lot of attention and business.”

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