The Fourth of July is a big deal at Fort Bragg, where the annual concert and fireworks display regularly draw a crowd of 40,000.
Danny Sheckles is a pyrotechnician with Pyro Shows, a Tennessee-based company that produces firework displays at Fort Bragg and throughout the southeast.
"It's really rewarding; it brings the little kid out in you, where you can get to go out and blow things up," said Sheckles. "It's exciting to know you can put a lot of explosives up in the air for entertainment."
Sheckles stages 40 shows each year, but it's still a part-time gig. He also teaches at a high school and community college near his home in Jacksboro, TN. The schedule leaves him free to travel during the busy summer season.
He's been a support technician for Fort Bragg's display for the past four years, but this year he's stepping up to serve as lead tech, responsible for planning, loading and deploying hundreds of fireworks in the 20-minute finale to the Fourth.
"Planning actually begins July 5th for the next year, " he said. "We'll start looking at little things we could tweak to make that show better. For the lead tech, [planning] begins at the end of March and will continue through the July show."
For Sheckles, those months of planning all lead up to one moment.
"At the end of the show, when the last shot has gone off and the crowd starts this thunderous applause, it's just like being an entertainer," he said with a smile. "It's just like a mad rush that comes through you."
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org