Our featured guests to share their historical reflections on women in aviation were Rudolph De Patureaux, retired French Naval Officer, Historian, and Author, and Erin Miller, granddaughter of WWII Women Airforce Service Pilot, Elaine Harmon. Rudolph first shared his eloquent reflection of meeting Val in France in 2007 and the work he has done since to honor the Franco-American aviation connection. Erin then shared her family’s heroic journey advocating for legislation that was passed in 2016 to allow for full burial rights of the WASP at Arlington National Cemetery. Erin presented us with a set of wings from Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds, a surviving WASP now her in 90’s, who was unfortunately not able to attend the event in person. We shared clips from a video interview with Shutsy about her trailblazing path as a woman pursuing a career in aviation during World War II. These WASP paved the way for future women, like Val and Captain Sara Cullen, to enter into the ranks of military aviators, which remains a male-dominated field to this day.
Our Foundation seeks to honor the legacies of all these courageous female pilots by reaching behind and providing scholarships to support the dreams of other young women entering into the aviation profession. With your continued financial support, our memorial scholarships keep the stories of Val and Sara (and all those who came before them) alive into the next generation of female aviators. We were very grateful to have Kelly Burke, Sara’s cousin, share a few words about Sara’s character, the striking similarities between Val and Sara, and how excited her family is to have a scholarship in her memory.
To round out our lineup of speakers, Dawn Fowler, a puppy parent with Warrior Canine Connection, shared her testimony about how training their dog, Jessie, has allowed her and her husband to “Adapt and Overcome” through the adversity in their lives. We love the community surrounding WCC and are honored for their enthusiastic support and participation in our events.
The newest addition to this year’s program was a live auction and raffle prizes to bolster our fundraising efforts – and what a huge success!! We had two stellar live auction items which generated some friendly competition and intense excitement in the audience. We had 1) Two exclusive tickets to a DC United Game in 2018 in their new stadium, which ending up going for $500, and 2) Two tickets to a Capitals hockey game, along with a signed jersey, which ended up going for $700 to our dear friend Jon Stevenson and his young hockey enthusiast-son. These items were generously donated by Capital’s player, Brooks Orpik, who Pat & Doreen met at a TAPS event last year. Brooks even met Jon and his son at the game for a private tour of the locker room after the game. GO CAPS!
After the program, we had a wonderful reception in the main exhibit gallery with amazing food catered by Mission BBQ. We ceremonially pinned the new wings to the Wings for Val exhibit, and at the very end, we announced the winners of over 10 different amazing raffle prizes that were graciously donated by several individuals and local businesses.
We have so many people and organizations to thank in helping us pull off this event. We’d like to especially recognize our dear friend, Julie Philips, who wrote and illustrated a special children’s book, “Fly With Me” that captures the imaginations of our youngest generation to spread their wings and fly. All proceeds from books sales go towards the Wings for Val Foundation – what an incredible gift!
We’d also like to recognize Images for Good, a nonprofit organization that provides photographic support to service organizations and programs. Kevin, the Founder, brought along three high school students to take photos of our event, all at no cost to us. We love how the photos tell the story of our event, and we are incredible grateful for our partnership with you!
Finally, we’d like to give a special thanks to the Women’s Memorial for serving as our beautiful venue for this event, and to the Travis Manion Foundation, for their continued support and partnership.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the event and/or contributed financially online this year. We look forward to making this event even bigger and better next year!