Building a Foundation for the Next 100 Years

This is my first year with the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation, and it has already been a whirlwind of events, great people, and dedicated volunteers. Thanks to everyone for your support and advice as I ramp up our public relations and community outreach efforts.

As you well know, this year marks the Centennial of Marine Corps Aviation; all of our events this year celebrate our story from the last century, while focusing on the next 100 years of preservation and study.

Steve “Smitty” Smith, our adventurous curator and his crew, manned displays at the San Diego County Fair, the Gillespie Air Show and the Oceanside Armed Forces Day Operation Appreciation. He said during the San Diego County Fair alone, he averaged 100 to 150 visitors per day.

We had a film crew, led by a new volunteer named Herb Proske, who conducted a series of oral histories, and more will be filmed in the future. Our goal is to catalogue as many of our Marine Aviators as we can so that their stories are not lost. Airplanes are wonderful pieces of machinery, but those who fly them are the most important asset a museum can have, and we hope to record more and more of these aviator’s stories as we move into the next century.

While our museum crew was up at the San Diego Fair, the foundation hosted two very important events, the third annual Semper Fi Ride and the annual Black Tie Gala. The gala is one of the year’s most highly anticipated events, and nearly 200 guests gathered at the Westgate Hotel in San Diego to celebrate the 100-year milestone. This year, the foundation was honored to host our longtime supporters, Mr. and Mrs. T. Boone Pickens, as well as Marine Corps heroes from every conflict since World War II. We had a great turnout, and many of our guests commented that the evening was one of the best foundation events they have attended in years. The gala committee worked tirelessly to ensure the event was perfect, and it was a memorable evening of laughs and camaraderie.

During the gala, we presented the 2012 Irene Ferguson Marine Wife Recognition Award recipient, Mrs. Sasha Lightfoot. She was noted for having pulled together the families of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, who lost six Marines in a horrific crash in February. The unit was in Yuma, Ariz. training for an upcoming deployment. Her husband, LtCol Stephen Lightfoot, is the commanding officer and is currently in Afghanistan. The annual award is presented at the gala, and selected from a pool of applicants.

On June 16, nearly 100 riders came out to support the third annual Semper Fi Ride and post-ride “poker walk.” Both of our generous donors – the Fun Bike Center and Bangin’ Burgers – support this event, and really do all of the hard work! When the foundation staff arrived on Saturday, most of the work had already been finished, riders were out on the course, and we had a record amount of donations for the day. Many of the riders didn’t know about it, but said they planned on returning next year.

We’ve launched our new website, which is still being worked on each month to bring visitors to the site all of the events coming up during the year. We encourage blogs, articles, photos and any other material we can use to post to our blog page. If you are interested in becoming a blogger, contact me at media@flyingleathernecks.org.

So far, visitor numbers have remained about the same for the first half of the year, but donations have increased. Our mission is clear – build a world-class museum that is the only one dedicated to Marine Corps Aviation History – and with the dedication of our volunteers and staff, we can make it a reality.

Semper Fi,

Kalen Arreola

Marketing & PR

Media@flyingleathernecks.org

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