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.