Story and Photos by Pat Krause
The Palm Springs Air Museum held its annual awards and fundraiser gala on February 15th. The celebration honors men who have made and sacrificed so much during their military careers. Many of these men have been decorated several times for their bravery. There was a large cocktail hour where guests got to mingle with the honorees and supporters. It was a night to remember not only for the awards given but also because it was the night after a rainfall that left many roads to the Air Museum blocked which made it difficult for guests to get to the gala on time.
The night started with the Colors being presented by the Desert Hot Springs Marine Corps Junior ROTC teens. The Canadian Presentation of Colors followed them by the Seaforth Highlanders who were accompanied by the Palm Springs Air Museum Pipe Band. The drums and the bagpipers made an impressive sight. Staff Sergeant Horace Miller did justice to the Star Spangled Banner while everyone stood with their hands over their hearts, such a beautiful view in today’s society.
The Celebrity Guest was an award-winning actor, Joe Mantegna whose career over 40 years has seen him in movies, on TV as well as the Stage. Mantegna and Gary Sinese have been involved with the National Memorial Day Concert on the Mall since 2002. He wore a unique jacket that was given to him by a man he considered a hero and said he thought it looked better on him than a black tie on this particular night.
There was a special honor in memoriam for James Houston who was a friend and sponsor to the Air Museum along with many others in the Desert. Vice-chair/Managing Director, Fred Bell, told how there are only four stealth fighters that are being given to Museums across the U.S. and the Palm Springs Air Museum is getting one, what a big honor. There will be a Houston Pavilion to house the Stealth Plane in Houston’s Honor.
Honorees included Col. USAF Ret. Clarence “Bud” Anderson. SSG USA Ret. Richard Thomas, and RM2 USN Ret. Marvin Cohn. More honorees were Brig. Gen. USAF Ret. Robin Olds, that was given posthumously, VADM. USN Ret. Mark Irby, “MRT’ Fox, and Cpt. USN. Astronaut. Ret. Robert “Hoot” Gibson and the only woman to be honored was LCDR. USN. Kirsten “Dragon” Hanson who is still on Active Duty. A video of each honoree was shown, and there was a lot of standing applause for these heroes.
The Honoree SSG. USA Ret. Clinton Romesha who is a Congressional Medal Of Honor recipient was unable to attend but a fellow Congressional of Honor Medal winner, Army Captain Willian Swenson, came to accept for him. Everyone felt so appreciative and overwhelmed by the heroism of these honorees as they each spoke a bit about their life in the military.
The entertainment for the evening was award-winning iconic singer Tony Orlando. Some of his more famous songs include Tie a Yellow Ribbon, Knock Three Times and Vaya Con Dios to name just a few. He started the evening by going out into the crowd to sing and later people got up to dance tonight away. They raised more than half of what is needed. They showed a video of children who have taken part in the museum’s programs for kids. They all spoke about what they have learned about our past and future. They each told about the impact it had on their lives so far and thanked all the guests for their support so they can continue in the programs. The programs are free to all the children and schools.