USS Midway Museum


The USS Midway Museum has always understood the importance of education. Over the past two decades, its educational programs have become the envy of museum’s across the country. Midway’s commitment was once again on display at this year’s San Diego Classroom of the Future Foundation Innovation in Education Award ceremony.

Established 25 years ago, the Classroom of the Future was initially focused on raising funds to build a regional technology hub that could shape the future of innovation in San Diego’s public schools. In 2006, they partnered with Midway to help them establish highly innovative educational programming. Today, Classroom of the Future and Midway are working together to bring this valuable resource to more students in the digital space.

Ten San Diego-area high school students received USS Midway Museum scholarships at the Classroom of the Future Foundation Innovation in Education Award ceremony.

“I was extremely proud that we again awarded scholarships to ten very enthusiastic, driven, focused high school seniors,” said Tina Chin, Midway’s director of education. “It’s immensely uplifting to be part of an organization that truly understands and supports the aspirations of these young scholars. Helping to send these young minds to college can potentially change the trajectory of lives for generations to come.”

Students awarded Midway scholarships were chosen from several high schools from across San Diego County. From San Ysidro and to San Marcos High Schools to Steele Canyon Charter High School and Crawford High School, each of these scholars will be the first in their families to attend college.

The ceremony was hosted at the Irwin M Jacobs Qualcomm Hall in Sorrento Valley. Their names displayed on the giant screen on stage, each recipient was congratulated by Midway’s CEO, Terry Kraft, as they accepted their highly-earned scholarship.

“Midway is proud to support each of these young academics with a $2,000 scholarship to help ease them into their college careers,” said Tina. “All of us at Midway wish them the best as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.”

Long before the written word, there was only storytelling. While it’s impossible to pinpoint the actual start of these oral narratives, most anthropologists date them back to more than 50,000 years ago and cave drawings discovered in France show that modern humans have been visually illuminating their lives for more than 30,000 years. 

Even in today’s digital age, we still find time to pass down many of our experiences, cultures, traditions from one generation to the next through the spoken word. Throughout the ages, storytelling remains a steadfast foundation of our global society.

C.J. Beaudu makes new friends with a family from San Diego

At the USS Midway Museum, storytelling is more than simply a way to communicate, and over the last 20 years, it has been elevated to an artform.

“Midway, as a venue, satisfies all the components for good stories,” said Jim Reily, Midway director of volunteer docents. “The aircraft carrier is foreign to most guests. There is an opportunity to share the stories of danger, heroism, sacrifice, patriotism and selfless service. The museum’s exhibits and displays are the perfect triggers to start a sea story told by our docents and other volunteers.”

More than 700 volunteers walk the decks of Midway, many of them connecting directly with museum guests. All recognize how critical storytelling is to education as well as entertainment.

“Storytelling is an important way to educate our guests because it captures their interest in inspirational ways,” said Paul Ward, a Midway docent with more than 7,400 volunteer hours. “Storytelling is a great help in providing clarity to a concept that is being shared, often for the first time.”

“It’s a good educational tool because it keeps the learner interested and entertained,” said C.J. Beaudu, who has been a Midway docent since 2013. “A good storyteller is not only knowledgeable, but also animated, and will watch the listener for cues to determine if the story is being understood and appreciated. If you’ve captured the listener’s attention, they’re learning.”

Visitors to Midway span a wide range of ages, backgrounds and nationalities, however, good storytelling is a common thread that can connect with a diverse collection of people.

“Tailored stories to the audience whether young or old works across a broad demographic,” said Todd Hyde, a volunteer docent for nearly 12 years. “If you capture their imagination, add some wonder, and tug a few heart strings, they will let go of their cell phones for the day. Our motto of adding a dash of inspiration, education, and entertainment along with preserving our American and naval heritage works for all hands.”

Paul Ward helps two young visitors from Pakistan earn their Jr. Pilot wings.

Unlike most museums, a visit to Midway is not a static encounter. For those who know her best, the ship is seen as a highly engaging “heads up” experience. Even with more than 30 beautifully restored historic military aircraft, dozens of unique exhibits and a variety of interactive experiences, the creation of an intimate connection with visitors comes by way of the museum’s volunteers, many of them military veterans who take guests on a high-seas adventure through storytelling.

“It’s our stories that help make the USS Midway come alive for every one of our visitors,” said Henry Schrik, who has amassed more than 1,200 volunteer hours since joining the docent team four years ago. “I tell our guests it’s not just about the airplanes and the

stuff that is seen when on a self-guided tour.”

“Visual learners appreciate the mental pictures storytelling evokes,” said Patty Forrest, who has more than 9,000 volunteer hours as a member of Midway’s community outreach, safety and ship’s restoration teams. “The guests use all their senses while visualizing where the story takes place. The stories preserve a lifetime of experiences from one generation to another.”

For Midway’s volunteers, there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction when they see the reaction of guests holding on to every word of their stories.

“The feedback I’ve received over the years has been very gratifying and it’s one of the reasons I’m here,” said Todd, a retired Navy commander with more than 7,000 volunteer hours. “These stories capture what many guests have never heard before. When a guest offers a handshake and says a heartfelt ‘thank you,’ it means just that. When a child asks another question it means you have connected. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a tear or even an introspective pause in the conversation as they grasp the meaning of what they just heard.”

“I love the moment when something said connects with something seen and explained,” said Paul, who also volunteers for the museum’s exhibits, guest services and community outreach crews. “You can literally see that eureka moment when you have touched a chord of appreciation or understanding. That moment is when I know that the story shared has made an incredible impact.”

It was something out of Hollywood movie. A young Navy pilot flying life-and-death missions during the Korean War, takes on seven Soviet MiG-15 fighters in aerial combat, and comes out victorious in an unprecedented one-man dog fight.

This is exactly what happened to Lt. Royce Williams, an F-9 Panther fighter pilot with Fighter Squadron 781 (VF-781) flying from the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34) in November 1952. 

Royce and three of his squadron mates were launched from the Oriskany to intercept the Soviet aircraft heading towards them from an airbase in Vladivostok. Over the course of 35 minutes, Royce, through one of most skillful demonstration of flying in military history, shot down four of the MiGs and likely damaged two others.

Korean War hero Royce Williams receives his Navy Cross more than 70 years after his historic aerial combat mission.

Out of ammunition and with his aircraft heavily damaged, Royce then limped back to the carrier making a difficult high-speed landing while the ship pitched violently in heavy seas. Royce emerged from the cockpit amazingly uninjured, however, his aircraft was not so lucky. His squadron’s maintenance crew counted more than 260 bullet holes in the jet. Deemed unrepairable, the Panther was pushed over the side into the cold dark ocean.

Politics soon entered the picture. Because the Soviet Union was not officially a combatant in the Korean War, it was feared that publicizing this incredible aviation feat would draw them further into the conflict. With Cold War sensitivities in play, the decision was made at the highest level of the U.S. government to cover up the dogfight. Royce was sworn to secrecy. For decades, he told no one about the mission, not even his wife.

It wasn’t until the Korean War records were declassified 50 years later that the world heard, for the first time, about the extraordinary and heroic performance of Royce Williams. It would be another 20 years before he would finally receive one of the military’s highest decorations befitting his courageous actions that day. 

On Jan. 20, 2023, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro presented Royce with the Navy Cross, the second highest award bestowed by the Navy.

“To see him in person, to listen to actions that he took on that day, in defense of himself, in defense of his shipmates, defense of those other pilots that were in the air with him was truly extraordinary,” said Secretary Del Toro. “His actions clearly distinguished himself during a high-risk mission and deserve proper recognition.”

At 97, Royce remains humble about his triumphant dogfight more than 70 years ago.

“I was just like a machine,” said Royce, who retired from the Navy at the rank of captain in 1980. “I was on automatic. I was just doing what I was trained to do.”

The F-9 Panther, like the one Royce flew during the Korean War, is not only on exhibit on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum, but is painted in his squadron’s colors and has his name stenciled on the side of the fuselage beneath the cockpit. This has always been a source of pride for Royce who still remembers the dogfight like it was yesterday.

“A lot of it was awareness of where they were and how I had to maneuver to avoid them,” said Royce, who also flew more than 100 combat missions during the Vietnam War. “They were taking turns. I decided if I concentrated on shooting them down, then I’d become an easy target. So my initial goal was to look for defensive opportunities when they made mistakes.”

Royce Williams points out some of the bullet holes in his F-9 Panther following his famous dogfight with Soviet MiGs in 1952.

Congressman Darrell Issa, representing California’s 48th District, had worked for years to petition the Department of Defense to upgrade the Silver Star medal Royce had previously received for that mission to a higher award.

“If we don’t recognize the valor of our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen sooner or later, then we miss the opportunity to thank them for their service,” said Congressman Issa. “Williams is a Top Gun pilot like no other, and an American hero for all time.”

In the spring of 1945, 2nd Lt. Daniel Inouye led his platoon on an assault of a heavily-defended, German-held ridge known as the Gothic Line near the village of San Terenzo, Italy. As he and his men stormed an enemy emplacement, he was shot in the torso, but continued to fight. He took out multiple German machine positions in close combat, however, while attempting to attack a third machine gun nest, Daniel was hit with a rifle-fired grenade that destroyed his right arm.

Evacuated to a field hospital, Daniel underwent multiple surgeries and blood transfusions over the next two weeks before doctors had to amputate his arm. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Daniel Inouye, who later became a Senator from Hawaii, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions in combat during World War II.

Daniel was a member of the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team. His regiment was the most highly decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. While many of those in this unit were serving and sacrificing on foreign soil, their families back home in the States were interned in prison camps.

“Rarely has a nation been so well served by a people it has so ill-treated,” said President Bill Clinton on June 21, 2000 during a special ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House honoring the soldiers of the 442nd. “They risked their lives, above and beyond the call of duty. And in so doing, they did more than defend America; in the face of painful prejudice, they helped it to define America at its best.”

“We had an extra burden because it was not only serving our nation in uniform, but also proving and demonstrating a loyalty,” said Daniel, who would serve as U.S. Senator from Hawaii for nearly 50 years. “I’m glad to say my country has said we did.”

Each May, since 1992, the United States observes Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This commemoration not only honors the contributions made by those of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry, but celebrates how their unique and diverse cultures have strengthened the fabric of America.

”I think it is important that we as Americans take time to reflect on our unique backgrounds and how we all contribute to a strong American tapestry,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Tran, a first-generation Vietnamese American who is currently a volunteer with the USS Midway Museum’s education department. “There is no singular Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, but rather we all have different and valuable cultures that help define our identity.”

People with Asian lineage have served in or supported the American military dating back to the Continental Army during Revolutionary War. It was only in 1948, after World War II, that desegregation ended in the military allowing for a fully integrated armed forces.

“It’s important that our military reflects the great diversity of the American people,” said Tim, who was born in Anaheim and is a graduate of the University of Southern California. “The U.S. military and the Navy in particular serve as ambassadors of our country to the rest of the world. Many other countries are much more homogenous and are surprised when they see American servicemembers of all different backgrounds, colors, religions, orientations, and origins able to work together as a team.”

For Juanito Del Rosario, whose nickname is Del, his American-dream journey started in San Jose City, Philippines shortly after World War II. Born into a poor family, he was able to enlist in the U.S. Navy in 1968 through a special military program. All foreign nationals, however, were barred from jobs that required access to classified information. For Filipino sailors like Del, they worked exclusively as food-service stewards in galleys and wardrooms on ships and at naval bases.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that the policy changed allowing Del to become an electrician’s mate. From there, his career took off rising through the ranks to chief petty officer and ultimately receiving his commission in 1983 as one of the Navy’s first Asian engineering duty officer.

Lt. Cmdr. Tim Tran is active member of the U.S. Navy and a USS Midway Museum volunteer in the education department.

“We are the minorities in this organization,” said Del, who served 38 years on active duty and in the Naval Reserves. “Despite being minorities, we can also do, perform and contribute something for the welfare, improvement and success of the military.”

A docent on Midway since 2018 with more than 2,400 volunteer hours, Del is proud that each year his adopted country salutes the contributions of all Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, whether or not they have served in the military.

Juanito Del Rosario retired from the Navy after 38 years and has been a USS Midway Museum volunteer since 2018.

“History is replete with evidence that Asian Americans have played important and vital roles in shaping our nation from participating and fighting in multiple wars and helping build our country’s infrastructure, to introducing and sharing our cultures,” said Del, who became a U.S. citizen in 1974 and spent 25 years as an electrical and design engineer with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. “Having this is a reminder that we, Asian Americans with an inherent link to our ethnic heritage, are important contributors to our society. Our good cultures blend with the nation’s other cultures for the better.”

It was 9:30 p.m. when the doorbell rang. In the sleepy Navy town of Coronado, Calif., hardly anyone rings the doorbell. Sybil Stockdale, the wife of Navy attack pilot Cmdr. James Stockdale, is sleeping upstairs and doesn’t hear it, but soon wakes to the sounds of voices down below. Hurrying to the front door, she sees her friend, Doyen Salsig, also the wife of a naval flyer, who is accompanied by a Navy lieutenant. With trepidation, the young naval chaplain informs Sybil that her husband has been shot down while on a bombing mission over North Vietnam and is missing.

The 41-year-old mother of four is immediately shaken. Doyen fetches her a glass of sherry. It’s September 1965 and Sybil Stockdale’s life has been changed forever. 

The Navy had previously advised Sybil to stay publicly quiet in situations like this and let State Department “professionals” do their work in negotiating such matters. A dutiful Navy spouse, Sybil understood not to rock the boat. It wasn’t long, however, that she and other wives of military aviators missing in action or prisoners of war in Vietnam became disillusioned with the lack of progress by their own government.

Under Sybil’s leadership, these wives decided to take matters into their own hands. They formed a union, that ultimately became the National League of Families, and went public to tell the world about their missing or imprisoned husbands.

The true story of the women who fought on behalf of their men is chronicled in the mesmerizing new novel “Unwavering: The wives who fought to ensure that no man is left behind” by Taylor Baldwin Kiland and Judy Silverstein Gray. The 300-page book recounts, in astonishing detail, the passionate and tireless efforts and experiences of these military wives who unwittingly took on diplomatic roles, often to the chagrin of America’s political leadership, to bring national attention to horrible treatment their husbands were enduring at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors.

“Once I heard about the landmark, little-known, and valiant work of the women against many odds, it became clear we had to share their stories,” said Judy, a retired chief petty officer from the U.S. Coast Guard. “Their narrative included Cold War-era intrigue, women bucking tradition, political history, and marked changes in society.”

For Taylor, the story of the wives triggered an intimate connection.

“I was six years old living in Coronado in 1973, the year the POWs came home,” recalled Taylor, a former naval officer. “I grew up with many of the POW and MIA families in this small island military community and remember their homecoming. While there has been so much written and documented about the Vietnam POWs, much less has been written about their wives and the epic home-front battle they waged against the U.S. government to raise awareness of and rally a nation around the plight of their men.”

Shortly after the release of their book this spring, Taylor and Judy held a book-signing event on the hangar deck of the USS Midway Museum to share the story of these incredible women. The experience of writing the book was a long and emotional experience for both authors.

“It took eight years to research and write this book,” said Taylor, the third generation in her family to serve in the Navy. “Theirs is not simply a wives tale. The gutsy determination the women displayed, their strong message, and straightforward eloquence underscore the importance of speaking up, even when it is challenging to do so.”

“In many ways it was like detective work,” said Judy, who has already published six books for young readers. “First, we had to fully understand the breadth of the collective narrative, as well as the individual narratives against the backdrop of a sprawling war. It took careful and coordinated interviewing to build trust with the women and even longer to tease out cultural and historic details. Hearing the wives recount their stories humanized the narrative, clarified the significance of their work, the impact they made, and how they overcame a slew of cultural, political, gender-base, and economic hurdles.”

Taylor Kiland and Judy Gray during their book signing on the USS Midway Museum.

To ensure the highest level of accuracy in their writing, Taylor and Judy had to overcome a number of challenges.

“Much of the information had not been discussed or accessed for more than five decades, so we used a tincture of patience and prodding,” said Judy, who has also written numerous articles for the Tampa Tribune. “There was also no single source where we could verify facts, so we used a kind of triangulation through documents found in the National Archives, Navy Archives, Library of Congress, Stanford’s Hoover Institution, the Bush, Nixon and Reagan presidential libraries, personal collections, repositories, and news stories. Our lengthy endnotes underscore that painstaking process.”

Taylor is well acquainted with the broader POW/MIA subject, having already written multiple books on the issue. While her previous writings are in-depth journeys into the evolving lives of the POWs following their return to the United States, this novel now sheds light on the dogged determination of their wives.

“The women were persistent, focused, and courageous, but they were also successful at rallying a divided nation around a humanitarian cause,” said Taylor, who holds a master’s in marketing communications from Northwestern University. “They helped rally our nation during a deeply divisive time.”

Sybil Stockdale meets with President Richard Nixon regarding the fate of the American POWs and missing in action during the Vietnam War.

The book has already received critical acclaim from Pulitzer Prize winning authors and former military leaders.

“Taylor Kiland and Judy Gray have chronicled—as no one else has—the dramatic, heart-rending saga of a small band of unlikely heroines who came to reshape U.S. foreign policy,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, former Director for National Intelligence. “While very diverse in backgrounds and personalities, they united around the common cause and soon learned how to call public attention to the plight of their men, and to bring pressure to bear on the government to take action.”

It would be seven and half years before Sybil would see her husband again following his release from Hanoi Hilton prison in February 1973. While her efforts and those of other wives were initially focused on bringing their husbands home from the war in Vietnam, the legacy of the organization that they started in the 1960s is still being felt today. The United States currently spends more than $130 million each year searching for those military members who remain missing in action.

“They are impressive and courageous women, who only now are beginning to understand the impact of their enduring work,” said Judy, who is also the third generation of her family to serve in the military. “Like many heroes, they remain humble. We are deeply grateful to these women for all they accomplished.”

There’s Midway Magic, and then there’s Midway Magic with maple-glaze topping or dusted with powdered sugar or even cream-cheese frosting with colorful sprinkles.

World Records are always made to be broken, and at the annual World Donut Eating Championship on the USS Midway Museum’s flight deck this summer, a new global mark in donut consumption was achieved.

Professional competitive eater James Webb ingested a chart topping 59 ½ donuts in just eight minutes taking down former world record holder, the renowned Joey Chestnut of the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating contest, who scarfed down 55 donuts back in 2017.

Australian James Webb set a new world’s recording by inhaling 59 ½ donuts in only eight minutes.

While this gut-gorging event may not sit well for folks with queasy stomachs, this gastronomical dough-boy fest supports the important cause of raising much needed funds for the Southern California Salvation Army.

“More than $40,000 was raised this year, nearly twice as much as last year and the most we’ve ever raised for a donut day contest,” said Jake Minger, the communications manager for San Diego regional office of the Salvation Army’s Southern California Division. “The funds raised will go towards homeless service for veterans, job training, and drug and alcohol recovery programs at our adult rehabilitation centers.”

This annual National Donut Day event brings to San Diego some of the nation’s top competitive eaters, including Miki Sudo, the world’s top-ranked female competitive eater, and the fourth overall ranking major-league eater, Nick Wehry. For the up-and-coming James Webb, winning the contest in record-setting fashion is a feather in his donut-devouring hat.

“I was born with a fat head and a good appetite, and now I’m just putting them both to good use,” said the fun-loving James. “I have the biggest, sweet tooth, so I really enjoyed this one. To be honest, I just want to brush my teeth.”

As this yearly fund-raising event supports programs for veterans, Midway was the best choice for the Salvation Army for the contest.

“The Midway is the perfect location for our National Donut Day event,” said Jake. “It allows us to honor veterans, who have proudly served our country and our competitors and guests get to see first-hand the amazing one-of-a-kind floating museum on beautiful San Diego Bay. We could not host this type of event anywhere else and still have the same impact.”

“This is unbelievable,” said James, a 34-year-old Australian. “I’ve never been on a naval warship before and never touched
a fighter jet. And I’ve also never eaten this many donuts. This was a good day at the office. Obviously, we’re here for a good
reason, there’s always a higher cause, so I’m glad we could raise money.”

With a new world record in the books, the Salvation Army is aiming even higher for the competition in 2024.

“Next year we hope to have Joey Chestnut return to take on James Webb,” said Jake. “It would be great to have Fox Sports or ESPN broadcast the event live.”

“I respect Joey,” said James, who is currently the number 10-ranked professional eater in the United States. “He’s top tier. I just like to be next to him and compete against him. That’s enough for me. See you again next year.”

Evelyn Sharp was only 17 years old when she earned her private pilot’s license, and in 1938 started flying at county fairs, rodeos and community celebrations giving rides to people who, in many instances, had never seen an airplane before. She quickly became a seasoned aviator and in the early 1940s, qualified as one of the first pilots in the U.S. Army’s Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. The following year, she became a member of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. Evelyn and the other women flyers in this unit were known as WASPs.

Over the next two years, Evelyn qualified to fly nine different military aircraft ferrying them to bases all over the country. In April 1944, she was transporting a high-performance P-38 Lighting fighter from an air base in Pennsylvania when one of the aircraft’s engines failed shortly after takeoff. Evelyn fought valiantly to turn the plane back to the airfield, and miraculously managed to make an emergency wheels-up landing. The impact with the ground, unfortunately, was so hard, it broke her neck. At the age of 24, Evelyn Sharp gave her life for her country.

Female aviation pioneer, Evelyn Sharp

On Memorial Day, the USS Midway Museum once again held a flight-deck commemoration ceremony to honor all service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. With this year also being the 50th anniversary of women in naval aviation, the ceremony made a special emphasis to underscored the service and sacrifice of women in the U.S. military – women like Evelyn Sharp.

“First and foremost however, we gather to remember those who have paid the ultimate price in service to this nation,” said retired Navy Capt. Tamara Graham, a naval helicopter pilot and guest speaker at the ceremony. “The patriots who have given their lives for this great country and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.”

As a trailblazer for women in naval aviation, Tamara is also keenly aware that women have served and lost their lives defending the United States throughout the history of the country.

“Women have served and died in our nation’s wars since the American Revolution,” said Tamara, who was one of the first women to lead a naval aviation squadron when she became the commanding officer of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 4 (HS-4) in 2011. “Our armed forces have always been a reflection of society, so as society changed, so did the military, albeit a bit slowly.”

Tamara, along with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and local Girl Scout Mari Beck, laid a wreath of remembrance to honor the more than half a million sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have fallen while serving in the U.S. military.

“On Memorial Day, let the sacrifice of those interned at Rosecrans, Miramar, Arlington, across this country and around the globe be a reminder of our immense blessing as free people, an inheritance that so many around the world unfortunately do not enjoy,” reflected Tamara, who amassed more than 3,200 flight hours during her 30-year naval career. “Although the benefits of freedom and liberty are our collective birthright today, they are not a guarantee for the future. We must ensure them in the actions we take as everyday Americans, and also appreciate the everyday Americans who gave their lives so that we might have that opportunity.”

U.S. Navy Capt. Tamara Graham was the guest speaker at the annual Memorial Day ceremony on board the USS Midway Museum.

USS Midway Museum volunteers are well known as being the face of the ship, the people guests engage and interact with during their visit. Many of the museum’s volunteers, however, work quietly in the background supporting important programs that make for a first-class guest experience and provide valuable support to the community.

“We have a wide variety of personalities volunteering for Midway, and every one of them is equally important to the success of the museum, “said Mark Berlin, Midway’s director of operations who enjoys working with volunteers throughout the ship. “Some enjoy being out front, while others like to contribute behind the scenes. Together, Midway’s volunteers make the ship a special place.”

We salute our Volunteers of the Month for the second quarter of 2023. 

Gary Ely, Airwing and Safety – April 2023

Gary Ely has been a member of Midway’s airwing and docent teams since 2008 and has more than 5,000 volunteer hours. The Iowa native enlisted in the Navy in 1969 and was assigned as door gunner in Huey helicopters with the famed Seawolves of Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3 (HAL-3) flying combat and search and rescue mission for 18 months during the Vietnam War.

A retired aero-space engineering technician, Gary worked for decades at the Naval Air Rework Facility at NAS North Island after leaving the Navy where he specialized as a sheet-metal mechanic and rising to an engineering tech for helicopter rotor blades. This experience has been vital in the restoration of the aircraft displayed on Midway.

“With background and good character, Gary has been a valuable member of Midway’s volunteer team,” said Walt Loftus, Midway’s director of aircraft restoration. “Within the airwing, he’s involved in many projects, and as his teammates say, ‘if you need something, he’s always there.’”

Sal Medina, Knot Team and Outreach – May 2023

Sal Medina has been an outstanding Midway volunteer since 2018. With nearly 2,100 volunteer hours, he’s been extremely supportive of his fellow teammates, particularly with the Knot Team. The Knot Team has raised more than $1 million for education scholarships and Sal has been a major contributor to that milestone.

“Sal is always willing to pitch in and his effort and dedication has allowed the Knot Team to grow and thrive,” said Ken Heilman, Midway’s guest service manager. “He also helps with the museum’s effort to connect with the community via the outreach team by marching in parades and manning our information booth at various events.”

Having served eight years in the Navy as a photographer’s mate, Sal spent more than 30 years in the printing field once he left the service. Along with his volunteer work on Midway, he also contributes his time to the AARP Foundation and the San Diego Futures Foundation. 

Cheryl Brierton, Citizenship Tutor – June 2023

A retired attorney, Cheryl Brierton volunteers her time on Midway helping foreign nationals become U.S. citizens. She became a citizenship tutor after responding to a newspaper article on the program run by the San Diego Community College District. Once the program became a special project of the museum, Cheryl continued tutoring as a Midway volunteer.

Since 2016, she has contributed more than 1,000 hours to tutoring citizenship students bringing extensive knowledge and experience that benefits the entire citizenship project.

“Cheryl has been diligent attending to the needs of the various citizenship applicants,” said Laurie Switzer, director of Midway’s volunteer program. “Her commitment, consistency, and reliability are invaluable to the citizenship program. She’s an inspiration to the citizenship applicants and to the other volunteer tutors as well.” 

While Cheryl has received many awards throughout her career, she is most proud of being able to help students succeed in becoming U.S. citizens.

For those interested in becoming a USS Midway Museum volunteer, more information along with the volunteer application can be found

On the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Midway, three veterans of that epic fight were honored for their courage and devotion to duty during the American naval victory over the Japanese during the early months of World War II.

American heroes Henry “Hank” Kudzik, Erwin Wendt and Charles Monroe received standing ovations during the annual Battle of Midway commemoration dinner on board the USS Midway Museum. The three veterans are only a few who fought at Midway who remain with us today.

Although the battle took place more than eight decades ago, the memories for each of them is as vivid today as they were in 1942.

“I was frightened,” said Hank, who is 98 years old and served as a gunners mate on the submarine USS Nautilus (SS-168) during the Battle of Midway. “I wanted combat. I wanted to see what I could do. The enemy was trying to get us and we were trying to get the enemy. We could have died right there just like that. I thought what I was doing was going to save our young people from the war.”

Erwin and Charles were squadron mates who both served in the famed Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8). Erwin, who just celebrated his 107th birthday, reflected on his friends who are no longer with us.

“I wish my other shipmates were here, but they’re all gone,” said the former aviation ordnanceman. “Everybody’s gone.”

For Charles, an aviation radioman, he remembered the prayer he said when the gun in his aircraft jammed while they were under attack.

“I said Lord, get me out of this mess and I’ll go to church,” said the 99-year-old retired physician. “Then my gun started working, and I went to church. I always said I had an angel taking care of me because I got out of it alive.”

The Battle of Midway is seen by most military historians as turning the tide in the Pacific. The Japanese Imperial Navy was never again able to regain the offensive during the remainder of World War II.

It may not be pretty, it may not have been fast, and it wasn’t even all the comfortable to fly in, but the C-2 Greyhound was the workhorse for U.S. naval aircraft carrier operations for nearly 60 years. 

Known as the COD – Carrier-Onboard-Delivery – the Greyhound is a twin-engine, high-wing aircraft that was used to fly passengers, cargo and mail to and from aircraft carriers operating at sea since the mid-1960s.

With the Navy currently replacing the Greyhounds with the V-22 Osprey, the USS Midway Museum got the chance to have a C-2 as its newest aircraft exhibit on the ship’s flight deck.

“In 2021, I was approached by Pence Parsons, one of our long-time docents, and Cmdr. Eric Ponsart, then the commanding officer of the C-2 squadron at NAS North Island, asking if I’d be interested in displaying one of the decommissioned Greyhounds on Midway,” said Walt Loftus, Midway’s director of aircraft restoration. “I immediately said ‘yes’ and contacted the Naval Air Systems Command about the possibility.”

The Navy agreed to provide the museum with a Greyhound on a long-term loan basis, and in late-2022, a C-2 from San Diego-based Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 (VRC-30) was towed to Midway’s Hangar 805 at North Island for restoration.

“Fortunately, because the aircraft was coming directly from an active-duty squadron, we only had to do minor modifications to get it ready for exhibit,” said Walt. “We mounted safety handrails on the loading ramp to allow guests access to the plane’s cargo bay, as well as installed some new interior lights. We also repainted it with VRC-30’s operational squadron colors.”

After committing nearly nine months and more than 500 volunteer hours to its restoration, the C-2 was floated by barge across San Diego Bay from North Island and craned on board Midway.

Midway’s airwing team was very excited with the acquisition of the Greyhound, which was flown by a crew of four (two pilots and 2 cargo specialists), had a range of more than 1,000 miles and could carry up to 10,000 pounds of cargo. It was often a disorienting experience for sailors flying to the carriers in the cargo area of a C-2 as all of the installed passenger seats in the aircraft faced backward.

“This is a great new aircraft exhibit for Midway guests to experience during a visit to the museum,” said Walt. “It gives me great pride for myself and our aircraft restoration team to work closely with the Navy to be able to bring a new plane on board for public display.”