HILTON HEAD, SC (WSAV) – Two F-18’s flew over the South Carolina coast this Fourth of July in the 8th Annual Salute from the Shore.

Beaches filled with people celebrating America’s birthday, some, thinking of their friends overseas.

“Twenty years retired US Navy Corpsman, spent the majority of my career with the Marine Corps.,” said Beaufort resident, Donna Patrick, “The hardest part about Fourth of July is just knowing that you have a lot of fellow military members around the world that can’t be here to celebrate.”

For Patrick and her friends, this day is about saying thank you. So when the planes reached Hilton Head, they had a special message waiting.

“We happened to see an article about the event it’s called Salute from the Shore,” said Vonda Young of Bluffton, “We actually built the word thank you in 15-foot letters in the sand using buckets that were donated by Lowes, in support of the military as well. So from the air, it’s going to be perfectly visible they can truly see the word ‘thank you.’”

A simple ‘thank you’ in the sand, but with meaning bigger than ever.

“Being a military member, especially before 9-11… we weren’t at war so you just didn’t think about how much your job impacted everybody’s lives until 9-11 happened and all of a sudden everybody realized what their first responders, their military, how important they were to the community,” said Patrick, “We’ve kind of been at war ever since, and get a lot more thank you’s now and a lot more appreciation for it.”

Hilton Head beach staff and people on vacation helped set up the display, but Young says now that she knows about the Salute well in advance, she hopes to get the community together for to say “thank you” next year.