As the USS Midway Museum continues its emergence from the pangs of COVID-19, the museum owes much of its success, as it did pre-pandemic, to the tremendous efforts of our volunteers. From safety, to restoration, to docents, and everything in between, our volunteers are the face of and muscle behind Midway being San Diego’s top attraction.

The gradual return to normalcy has also allowed for the resumption of the Volunteers of Month accolades. As it has been over the history of the museum, volunteers continue to shine across the board.

“I am constantly inspired and in awe of the skills and values that Midway volunteers bring to the team and our culture,” said Laurie Switzer, director of volunteer programs. “So many are deserving of this recognition.”

With great celebration, we give a big Midway shout-out to the performances of six stellar volunteers from the second half of 2021.

Liza Aguirre-Oviedo, Library – June 2021

Liza has been an inspiration for Midway since joining the team in 2016.

As the museum navigated an uncertain course through the pandemic, Liza was a constant beacon of hope, keeping her library teammates connected through a weekly program of continuing education Zoom meetings. Organizing a diverse series of presenters from all over the country, she created a unique and exciting forum for discussion and learning.

A primary focus for Liza has been her contributions to the Proceedings project, which is a long-term effort by the library to digitize the contents of Proceedings magazine, an important monthly publication of the U.S. Naval Institute. Over the course of the past several years, nearly 12,500 articles from more than 1,300 Proceedings issues have been digitized. Liza, who has contributed more than 1,400 volunteer hours, is fascinated with the Proceedings project because of its historic significance.

“Liza is an extraordinary volunteer, as she is the most enthusiastic and cheerful member of our team,” said Dave Hanson, Midway’s curator. “She has been the leader of our children’s book drive, our holiday decorating, and been involved in many other library projects. Liza inspires all of us to go the extra mile.”

Liza is gracious, warm and welcoming, and continues to be instrumental in maintaining library team spirit.

Vicki Peyton, Safety Department – July 2021

The question isn’t what does Vicki Peyton do, it’s what DOESN’T she do. A volunteer since 2015, Vicki has more than 2,000 volunteer hours. Long known as a weekend warrior, she’s a safety lead as well as a member of the Midway’s outreach team. She does all this and still holds down a full-time job as a paralegal.

As one of the safety department’s training officers, she has also assisted in training new members of the safety team.

Vicki is always looking for new opportunities to contribute. From assisting with crowd management during events to supporting our education department with the museum’s youth overnight programs, she can always be counted on to step to the plate.

“Vicki’s leadership skills led her to become a safety training officer, then a safety lead, where she now serves for the Sunday safety team and as an event’s safety lead,” said Dominick Boccia, Midway’s safety director. “Her warm and vibrant personality is infectious and adds to her role as a leader for daily operations and special events.”

Vicki is a big reason behind the success and safe operation of the museum.

Tom Herskowitz, Docent – August 2021

With 200 combat missions over the skies of Vietnam and a graduate of the Navy’s Top Gun strike-fighter instructor program, Tom Herskowitz is a docent who loves sharing his fascinating Navy experiences with guests. 

A docent since 2017 with nearly 5,000 volunteer hours, Tom stands out because of his ability to see what needs to be done and his willingness to do it. There’s no more perfect example of how Tom supported Midway than when the museum’s operations were shut down due to COVID-19.

To maintain morale and keep communication flowing amongst docent corps, Tom began facilitating a continuing education program with regular Zoom seminars and meetings. These sessions became a critical lifeline that allowed those volunteers who were unable to return to the ship the opportunity to remain connected with each other.

“Tom is our go-to expert in all things Zoom,” said Jim Reily, director of docent programs. “He has guided hundreds of volunteers, many of whom are uneasy with technology, in using Zoom for meetings and for socializing. His tireless efforts during the COVID shutdown not only kept our docent team engaged and motivated, but ensured they were once again ready to inspire, educate and entertain our guests when they returned to Midway.”

Many Midway volunteers wanted to maintain their camaraderie during the lock-down and Tom was the conduit that kept the docent esprit de corps alive and well.

Felix Zamora, Photographer – September 2021

Felix is always there. Describing his support of Midway as proactive would be an understatement. Not only can Felix, who has more than 1,600 volunteer hours, be relied on to provide photographic services for all marketing-related events, but he routinely photographs membership, military and special events, as well as volunteer and staff activities. 

The quality of his work is consistently outstanding. You only have to read Currents each quarter to get a glimpse of Felix’s photographic prowess. 

Coupled with his photography skills is his contagious positive demeanor. His outstanding personality and attitude resonates with staff, volunteers, guests and clients. A volunteer since 2012, he continues to be one of Midway’s finest ambassadors.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Felix as a priceless member of the Midway family,” said David Koontz, the museum’s marketing director. “He’s a wonderful photographer who is always ready to help. On top of that, he just an all-around great guy.”

To ensure the best quality imagery, he also keeps ahead of the curve on the latest photographic technology. Rain or shine, Felix never misses a beat for Midway.

Mike Bojanowski, Safety Department – October 2021

New to Midway, Mike joined the museum in April 2021. Within in a few weeks, however, he was taking a leadership role on the safety team. A retired Navy hospital corpsman, he immediately began to enhance the museum’s first aid and CPR training program.

Over the past several months, Mike has worked tirelessly at getting his teaching certifications and setting up a program for Midway through the Red Cross. Mike is currently in the process of getting the safety staff certified through an on-line training program. He then provides additional hands-on training on the ship.

“Mike jumped in and resuscitated our Red Cross training program after we lost our longtime certified lead trainer,” said Steve Suslik, Midway’s safety operations specialist and volunteer coordinator. “His positive can-do attitude helped him overcome numerous hurdles imposed due to the pandemic as well as a lot of red tape with the Red Cross. We knew he had the skills and experience for the task, but his persistence and knowledge of the Red Cross system has paid off in a big way.”

Mike also continues to volunteer as a registered nurse for the Red Cross, but we’re delighted he’s now part of the Midway team.

John & Joyce Sunde, Knot Team – November 2021

John and Joyce Sunde are the dynamic duo of Midway’s Knot Team. John joined the museum as a docent in 2005 and his wife Joyce came on board in 2016. Together, they’ve amassed more than 7,000 hours of volunteer time and for the past five years have been a driving force behind the success of the Knot Team.

They regularly work at the knot tables on the weekends collecting donations and making custom order bracelets for guests. They also work diligently at home producing knotted items for the museum and over the last six months have produced approximately 2,000 bracelets with a value of more than $15,000. 

“We are very grateful that John and Joyce are so generous with their time and talents,” said Katie Andersen, Midway’s guest service manager who helps oversee the Knot Team. “Not only can they be regularly found on board sharing the story of the Knot Team with our guests, but the number of bracelets they continually make has resulted in significant contributions to our scholarship fund. Their support of Midway and our BZ scholarship fund is truly inspiring.”

Their dedicated and passionate efforts have contributed significantly to Midway Magic.

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