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Greetings from the flight deck of the USS Midway. The holidays this past year were much more festive than in 2020, and we are all excited about an even better 2022. We’re also looking forward to celebrating the centennial of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier this year. 

It was in 1922 that the USS Langley (CV-1) was commissioned as America’s first aircraft carrier, and the Midway stands today as a testament to the industrial genius and progress of democracy over the past century. The Navy will be sponsoring celebrations across the country for the occasion and I’m sure Midway will play a central role in that endeavor.

I want to thank all of our volunteers, members and supporters for helping Midway continue to successfully navigate the COVID storm. As we start to moving in a more positive direction, I’d like to make sure that all of our “crew” knows just how we did during the pandemic, and I would offer the following for your edification:

– We are in as strong a financial position now as we were going into the pandemic. While our business was shut down, our financial investments did very well during the stock market run up.

– Our staff is very strong. While we were forced to downsize, the outstanding new crew we’re hiring is amongst the best.

– Our volunteers returned to us nearly 100 percent, and we have resumed a full operating schedule thanks to them. None of them look a day older!

– Our education team built an online education program while we were closed, and is now returning to their onboard programs and the Snooze Crewz sleepover program resumed in January.

– Our events team has been completely rebuilt with a group of very experienced and talented leaders from the San Diego hospitality industry…better than ever!

Finally, we’ve begun to quietly finalize the plans for the development of our park on Navy Pier. We will be able to maintain adequate parking as we build the largest veterans park on the West Coast of America. Stand by for details…it’s going to be an exciting year for Midway. 

Onward and upward,

Mac

They reached out to the Midway.

“We believe the USS Midway is a symbol of all that makes this country great and we were excited to find out that it was an option for the event,” said Dennis.

“It was truly a pleasure to be able to help the marshals with this tribute,” said Susan Butler, Midway’s event manager. “I’m delighted that we could make their tribute event a special experience. They were very excited to be on board.” 

On March 12, the marshals began their early-morning run at the San Diego County Administration building, made their way to the Midway, where the nearly 30 marshals and their mascot dog Lucky, engaged in some group calisthenics before heading back to the starting line.

From the moment any marshal starts initial training, the sacrifices past marshals have made are emphasized. Trainees are expected to know the names of each marshal killed in the line of duty.

“We learn about our past and honor those who have passed,” said Dennis. “When we graduate [from the U.S. Marshals Academy] and receive the silver star, we become part of the marshal’s legacy. This is why the Fallen Heroes Run is important.”

Many members of the marshal service are military veterans with a large number of them still serving in the reserves. Whether or not a marshal has prior military service, each member continues to honor their oaths and remember the fallen.

“Thank you for allowing us to have the USS Midway be part of our special event,” said Dennis. “We look forward to continuing this tradition.”

Dear Midway Members, 

To me, this past holiday season was “more” than usual. We continue living with a frightening pandemic that has taught us to not take anything for granted. As I am a believer in always looking for the good stuff in the bad stuff, I rejoice in the occasional feel-good stories that have emerged from the BS and chaos. For me, it shows that our strength to thrive and survive – and carry on as normally as possible – endures.

Recently, I came across a wonderful story that brought me to tears. It’s about a 6-year-old boy’s kindness and his astonishing love of All Things Military.

I’d like to tell you about little Rowan Sylvester Bray.

Like many young boys, Rowan is fascinated with the military, and he clearly has a deep family connection. He has two third cousins, three great uncles and a great grandfather who served in the Navy, Marines, and Special Forces. His cousins attended and taught at West Point, and were deployed to Afghanistan. His uncles served in Vietnam and his great grandfather fought at Iwo Jima. Talk about a military family tree. 

 Amazingly, when Rowan was only 4 years old, he would ask his parents to play John Philips Sousa marching band music while he took his afternoon nap. Can you imagine sleeping through all that brass and percussion!?

Recently, he told his mother Julie, “I have another buddy in the military and his name is General Patton. I think he is a genius.” Although Rowan is starting to question if Santa Claus really exists, he truly believes that George Patton is still alive. His folks haven’t had the heart to break the news to him, at least not yet.

Rowan is a regular visitor to the USS Midway Museum. In fact, he’s been on board the ship six times in recent months. His family comes here because it is a good outdoor outing, especially when friends and relatives visit from out of town. More and more, he asks that they visit every time he has a day off from school.

At his recent sixth birthday party, Rowan requested that each guest provide $5 in place of toys so that he could donate the money. His birthday kitty totaled $70. He wanted to donate the money to military veterans because, as he told his mother, “they served our country good.” According to Julie, there isn’t a lot that a 6-year-old boy respects, but Rowan definitely respects the effort and sacrifice of every person in our military. 

After researching some veterans organizations, Rowan was not impressed because when he imagines veterans, he thinks of the Midway docents, or as he calls them, “the guys in the yellow caps.” To him, they are real people with real stories to tell. During his many visits to the museum, the docents have shown him how to salute properly and about the taste of fried chicken in the mess. They’ve also talked to him about the importance of teamwork and friendship while following rules required for survival. 

When Rowan goes to the Midway, he just walks right up to the docents and asks random questions. LOTS of them! Our yellow-capped docents happily oblige and make his experience special because, according to Rowan, the Midway is the “only ship where there are still the same people inside and actual veterans that I can talk to.”

So what does this all have to do with Rowan’s sixth birthday and Midway? To our delight, we recently received an envelope from him with $70 and a note that read, “Hi Volunteers, thank you for helping our country” in huge-scribbled letters. He donated his birthday money to our world-famous docents! WOW!

The Bray family is very grateful that their son has the opportunity to learn from living history. Me too. I hope this story of Rowan touches your heart as much as it has touched mine. He’s quite an impressive young boy and we thank him for his spirit of generosity.

Sending Warm Hugs to You and Yours,

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, speaks at the award breakfast.

The Midway Foundation helps fund education programs, organizations, and initiatives that support America’s core values of service and sacrifice in the name of
freedom. The Foundation developed the
“Pillars of Freedom” granting program to support organizations that support uniformed military members, veterans and first responders.

“Since 2016, the Foundation has granted $2.7 million to 51 organizations,” said Laura White, President of the Midway Foundation. “And we won’t stop there.”

Grants have ranged from $5,000 to $90,000 over the past five years and have impacted more than 100,000 individuals. During an award breakfast in November, the 2022 grants totaling $305,000 were presented to 12 local organizations including the San Diego Armed Forces YMCA, the Fallen Officers Fund, Support The Enlisted Project (STEP), and the San Diego USO.

“It’s an extra special partnership we have with the Midway,” said Stan Schwartz, vice chairman of the Fallen Officers Fund. “Our organization supports law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, helping financially the families of those officers. The Fund has helped more than 100 families cope with the loss of a loved one since 1998. We really appreciate the Midway Foundation for all their support.”

On hand for the grant announcement was Supervisor Nathan Fletcher who is chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and former U.S. Marine Corps counterintelligence specialist, and Supervisor Joel Anderson, a strong proponent of veteran issues. 

“Midway is a world-class destination for millions of folks that showcases the best of San Diego, the best of our service and the best of our culture,” said Nathan. “But what is sometimes lost, is not what the Midway does for its visitors, but how the Museum and its Foundation give back to the community. The Midway Foundation plays a vital role in supporting our community. It’s a story we need to tell more about.”

“Since 2016, the Foundation has granted $2.7 million to
51 organizations and we won’t stop there.”

Another 2022 grantee was Support The Enlisted Project (STEP). STEP’s mission is to assist young military families who find themselves in a financial crisis through counseling, education and grants. The ultimate goal is to have these families build financial self-sufficiency.

STEP boasts an impressive success rate with only four percent of the families they help coming back into the program.

“What we do is only possible through the strong and dedicated support of the community,” said Tony Teravainen, CEO and co-founder of STEP. “I’m forever thankful to the Midway Foundation for their support.”

The Foundation is also building an endowment to support the museum’s education programs in perpetuity. In 2022, the Midway Foundation will take the lead on fundraising for Freedom Park at Navy Pier. To learn more about the Midway Foundation, contact Laura White at lwhite@midway.org.