Story and Photos by Pat Krause
The Palm Springs Air Museum held its annual Gala with the theme, TOP GUN, this year. The Gala honors the Best of the Best by naming 8 TOP GUN heroes from all services as recipients. The cocktail party was held in the main hangar where guests could go outside to see all the planes displayed there. The gala dinner started with the Presentation of the Colors by the Desert Hot Springs Marine Corps Junior ROTC. The National Anthem was sung with everyone standing with their hands over their hearts singing along with the singer.
Fred Bell, Managing Director, gave the welcoming speech. He said he was so amazed that the event was held in the new General Miles Hangar that just a
short eight years ago was a rock-filled lot. He said the hanger was built by over 600 volunteers and that the hangar and all its contents could not have been accomplished without their hours and hours of help. He asked for applause to honor all the volunteers that gave over 80,000 hours of their time to the Air Museum.
Other speakers included Fred Noble and Chairman of the Board Dan Gilbertson. The special guest was actor Tom Skerritt who was indeed a celebrity as he walked among the guests speaking to them and said he was so proud to meet all the veterans and heroes attending. It was noted there were 3 Tuskegee Airmen along with over 600 guests for the gala and that Mayor Robert Moon still fit into his uniform. Entertainment was provided by The Company Men who thrilled the guests with hits of yesteryear like, My Girl; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and That Loving Feeling.
2018 honorees were Capt. US Navy Ret. and astronaut, Alan Bean, Captain US Navy Ret. Jim Dimatteo, Colonel US Air Force Ret. Jon Goldenbaum, Major General US Air Force Ret. Pat J. Halloran, Captain US Navy Ret. Dan Pedersen, Congressional Medal of Honor and Master Sargeant US Arm Ret. Leroy Petry, CDR Jacob Rosales, and Entrepreneur/Aviator Extraordinaire Clay Lacy. These Heroes were honored as The Best of the Best for their service. Each was honored with a video of their lives and a presentation for their awards.
The Air Museum is proud to be able to teach our young children about aviation. They bus children from various schools into the Museum, Feed them lunch and teach them the history of Aviation and our Wars. They have shown over 6000 children with an education program that is the best bar none because they meet with the docents who lived the experiences and can tell their stories. Kids can get on a plane and see what it is like to be a pilot or in the military. It’s a hands-on education and one the children never forget. They can pilot a plane on a computer and learn more about a device they know. Knowing our history and the wars we fought will maybe deter futures wars.