The theme for this year’s program was inspired by the wonderful award-winning documentary, “Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby”, that shares the true story of twenty women who raced across America in the summer of 1929. Producer Heather Taylor joined us as our first keynote speaker to help set the stage for the event by describing how women aviators of the past broke through the clouds to complete this little-known first national air derby.
Following Heather was LCDR Jenny Moore, who flew out from Lemoore, CA where she works for Lockheed Martin as an F-35 Contract Instructor Pilot. Jenny is a shining example of a present day female aviator who continues to break through the clouds with the military’s latest and greatest aircraft using the same gusto, enthusiasm and boldness as the women from 1929 who Heather profiles in her film. Jenny knew Val from Naval flight training in Meridian, MS and shared stories of how she and Val encouraged each other through very tough times during their training. When asked about what she would say to young women thinking about aviation as a future career, Jenny stated simply “We need YOU!”
Closing our program, we had several past and present scholarship recipients share their own remarks about how they plan to continue this legacy of breaking through the clouds into the future with their unique career aspirations. Sinead, our 2017 recipient, joined us in person from Newburgh, NY to share with the audience her plans for becoming an Air Force pilot (She can’t wait to add her wings to the Wings for Val exhibit one day very soon, thanks in part to the support of our scholarship!) We also received video testimonies from three other past recipients who couldn’t be there in person but who were thoughtful enough to share a few words about what winning the scholarship has meant to them and their career aspirations. Finally, we were joined by our current 2018 drone training scholarship recipients, Eleanor and Elyse, who are really breaking new ground in the photography world through the use of drones, thanks to our newest scholarship program in partnership with Images for Good and DartDrones. To acknowledge the completion of their drone pilot certifications, we awarded Elyse and Eleanor with custom-made drone wings, which they later pinned to our Wings for Val exhibit. Additional wings that were added to the exhibit this year include those of Ashley Taylor (2015 scholarship recipient) and Brooke Campbell (Marine Corps helicopter pilot and USNA classmate of Val’s).
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 ten different amazing raffle prizes that were graciously donated by several individuals and local businesses, including Mount Felix Vineyard. Heavy Seas Alehouse, and Old Line Spirits.
A huge thanks to so many of you who supported us through this year and for another successful event! And photo credit goes to Images for Good, an amazing service-based photography nonprofit organization with whom we have the privilege of partnering!