Whether connecting directly with visitors or working behind the scenes, USS Midway Museum volunteers continue to make a difference in the museum’s guest experience. Each of Midway’s more than 700 volunteers bring tremendous passion, dedication and commitment to their various roles on the ship.

“Our volunteers are Midway’s main engines, “said Len Santiago, Midway’s chief engineer who oversees Midway’s ship restoration volunteers. “I wish we could bottle their boundless energy and enthusiasm like jet fuel. It powers our Midway Magic which energizes our guests.”

We give a rousing round of applause to our Volunteers of the Month for the third quarter of 2023. 

Phil Swartz, Docent – July 2023

Since joining Midway in 2010, Phil Swartz has become one of the museum’s most outstanding docents. The former Navy S-3A Viking pilot quickly became a Docent of the Watch and prides himself in building strong teams and fostering outstanding teamwork.

Phil’s remarkable leadership skills reflect his impressive achievements in both the military and the civilian sector. Following a successful Navy career as a naval aviator with more than 250 carrier landings and commanding Fleet Logistic Support Squadron 57 (VR-57), Phil took his aviation talents to commercial airlines where he was qualified as a pilot in multiple aircraft models.

“We nominated Phil because he is a great leader, a superb team builder and people manager” said Tom Caughlin, Midway’s docent coordinator. “He also has a well-developed sense of humor. Docents genuinely enjoy being part of his watch team, so he usually has the largest group of the entire watch schedule.” 

Phil, who has amassed more than 4,600 volunteer hours, also serves on Midway’s community outreach team, representing the museum at off-site events. In addition to his generous volunteer service aboard Midway, the retired airline pilot is a member of RSVP Patrol, a volunteer force that supports the Coronado Police Department and the Highway Patrol. 

David Wallace, Curatorial/Library – August 2023

David Wallace started volunteering for Midway’s library in 2018 and has already taken the lead on several key projects. He initially began working on the long-term “Proceedings” project, and later switched over to cataloging aircraft carrier histories. By 2021, David became the lead on the muster roll project which accumulates Midway crew member information from government sources to be included in the library’s master-crew list. 

In 2022, David became senior lead of library volunteers on Mondays and Wednesdays. In the role, he catalogs new donations, determines what donations to retain, answers research questions, works with the database technical support, and trains new volunteers. 

“David has always been a very dedicated, enthusiastic, and hardworking volunteer,” said David Hanson, Midway’s curator. “He stepped up to fill the unfillable shoes of retiring lead librarian Bonnie Brown, and has done an excellent job at that. The library continues its reputation of excellence due in part to David’s leadership and efforts. He is very valuable to our library.”

David, who has more than 4,000 volunteer hours, is also happy to lend a little muscle to keep the library moving forward. He installed heavy metal library shelving units from parts found around the ship, which increased the number of books that can now be stored in that library’s annex.

Gilbert Harrison, Safety – September 2023

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Gilbert Harrison began volunteering for Midway in 2018. Within two years, he was already a training officer with the safety department. When he is not wearing his safety red hat, Gilbert also volunteers with the museum’s community outreach team and occasionally with guest services.

“He works hard for us and is an asset to our safety department,” said Dominck Boccia, Midway’s director of safety. “He remains tenacious and energetic about being a team member, he loves being on the Midway, and serving with us all. He is also constantly recruiting new volunteers for the safety team.”

Gilbert is a strong believer in community service. Although he spends a considerable amount of time on Midway, with more than 3,000 volunteer hours over that last five years, he still finds additional opportunities to share his talents with other important support organizations in San Diego.

The retired real estate appraiser currently volunteers with Sharp HospiceCare in their Vet2Vet and patient care program which has also supported several former Midway sailors. He helps hospice veterans and their families tell their story and researches information on their service, often times enlisting the assistance of Midway’s curatorial team.

Gilbert also serves on the San Diego State University War Memorial Committee.

For those interested in becoming a USS Midway Museum volunteer, more information along with the volunteer application can be found www.midway.org/give-join/volunteers

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