Firstly, our sincere gratitude to each and every one of you for your support throughout 2015. We would not have been able to accomplish our mission without you, and for that we are truly grateful. Our first year of operations has been exciting, and we look forward to continuing support for the families of our fallen air warriors in 2016. Nevertheless, let us not forget those 19 souls that left us too soon due to 5 Class-A Naval Aviation mishaps in 2015.
We began with the realization that many other communities within the military that accept relatively high risk in the performance of their duties also have a support organization committed to taking care of their families. Unfortunately, naval aviation is among the most dangerous, and yet there was no such support structure in place. Each time a mishap affected our community, it was on the individual members of the ready rooms to scramble and “pass around the hat” to take care of their own in a timely fashion. In 2015, with your help, we began to change that.
The year started off as a grassroots fundraising campaign featuring a video with Marines across the globe naming the callsign, date, and location of a mishap that personally affected them. It quickly spread to friends and family, and we were able to raise over $13,000 in the first month. A private launch party was held in San Diego that raised an additional $2,000 on New Year’s Eve to ring in 2015 and set the tone for the rest of the year.
Tragedy struck the Marine aviation community in January when Major “Peaches” Kealey and Captain “Chief” Satterfield were lost in a UH-1Y Class A mishap at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms, CA. The Wingman Foundation responded by raising money for memorial plaques at Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial, San Diego, CA, in their honor. Additionally, we look forward to dedicating a middle school science laboratory in Peaches’ honor in the near future.
The late Corporal Jordan Spears of VMM-163(REIN) was honored in a memorial ceremony with several of his family members present, shortly after the squadron’s homecoming from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s WESTPAC deployment. It was his death during a deployment in October 2014 that was the genesis of our organization.
The loss of two H-1 helicopters and seven Marines (Vengeance 97 & 98) in early 2012 reverberated throughout the community. To mark the three-year anniversary, we hosted a remembrance get-together and fundraiser at Mother Earth Brewery in Vista, CA. Raising over $6,000 in a single day, the HMLA-469 Vengeance family, and many other friends, financed permanent memorials at Mt. Soledad that were dedicated in May. We were honored to have some of the family members affected by the mishap present for the dedication, and it was cathartic to be able to remember those great Marines in a familial setting.
The Wingman Foundation partnered with Service2School, another non-profit organization with the explicit mission of providing free application counseling to military veterans in order to help them win admission to the best universities possible. We hosted an MBA workshop seminar in May at MCAS Miramar Officers’ Club, with representatives from several of the top MBA programs nationwide present to help veterans of all services with their civilian educational plans.
Tragically, HMLA-469 Vengeance suffered another great loss in May with the crash of Vengeance 01, a UH-1Y flying in support of the humanitarian efforts after the devastating Nepal earthquakes. Six Marines, two Nepalese soldiers, and five civilians were killed in the crash. The Wingman Foundation was able to finance part of the HMLA-469 memorial ceremony and fly a relative of one of the deceased to the ceremony at no cost. Additionally, over $4,500 was distributed to the affected families as direct financial compensation through the partnered efforts of the Foundation and a friend of the deceased.
When VMM-161(REIN) lost an MV-22B Osprey in Hawaii last May, The Wingman Foundation was there to fly Sergeant Matthew Sevilla’s wife, Angela, from California to his hospital bedside in Hawaii within 24 hours of notification. This is precisely why this Foundation exists: to be there for Marines, sailors, and their families in the worst possible moments. We are committed to maintaining a “Mishap Kit” of financial resources to help squadrons and families deal with disaster and eliminate the worry about where the money will come from nor what paperwork is necessary.
Even more fundraising efforts occurred this past summer, such as being the charity partner of San Diego’s largest pub crawl in May. The Wingman Foundation and several close friends were invited to sing the National Anthem in front of 1,500+ at the House of Blues in downtown San Diego and received a portion of the proceeds from that event. Then, Captain Mike “SARS” Harris attempted a 100-mile, 24-hour Ultramarathon in San Francisco, CA, raising over $10,000 for our inaugural educational grant in honor of LtCol Chris “Otis” Raible. In June, we also raised over $30,000 during the inaugural Wingman Golf Tournament in San Diego, which was attended by many San Diego local business owners who have so generously lent their support during our formative months.
In the fall, we were honored to be present at the Miramar Air Show, and demand was high for Wingman Foundation t-shirts, hats, and souvenirs. Because we depend completely on volunteers and have no staff payroll, 100% of these sales went right back into the Foundation. We even had a small team run under The Wingman Foundation banner at the 40th Marine Corps Marathon held in October in Washington, DC!
In October, VMFA-232 lost Major Taj “Cabbie” Sareen in an F/A-18 crash during training in England. We were able to help his squadron finance the memorial ceremony reception at MCAS Miramar, CA. Later that fall, we helped VMM-161(REIN) as we financed an emergency plane ticket for a Marine whose father was terminally ill. Through your donations, he was able to get home from deployment during this critical time.
As the new year begins, we are busy selecting a recipient of the LtCol “Otis” Raible Educational Grant, to be announced in March. We are also excited to announce that 2016 will see the incorporation of US Navy aviation into our mission, and we’ve brought several of our “blue-side” brethren onboard to aggressively expand in that direction.
We’re proud of the past and excited for the future, but we still need your help. Your tax-deductible financial contributions are certainly appreciated, but more importantly, help us build awareness within the Naval Aviation community that The Wingman Foundation exists solely for their support. Everyone from the Commanding Officer to the newest Private, the Family Readiness Officers, the Ombudsmen, and all their friends and families are encouraged to connect with us via our website, Facebook page, or any of our social media outlets to see what we’re all about. We hope that you will remember us the next time the unthinkable happens; we promise that The Wingman Foundation will be there, ready to support. Once again, thank you for your generous support over the past year and we look forward to serving the entire Naval Aviation community in 2016!
Never Leave a Wingman Behind.
In Remembrance, 2015
HMLA-169 Maj Elizabeth “Peaches” Kealey 29 Palms, CA 23 January 2015
Capt Adam “Chief” Satterfield
HMLA-469 Capt Dustin “Sandwich” Lukasiewicz Nepal 12 May 2015
Capt Christopher Norgren
Sgt Ward Johnson IV
Sgt Eric Seaman
Cpl Sara Medina
LCpl Jacob Hug
+ 5 Nepali Civilians
VMM-161 LCpl Joshua Barron Bellows AFB, Hawaii 17 May 2015
LCpl Matthew Determan
HMH-464 SSgt Jonathan Lewis Camp Lejeune, NC 2 September 2015
VMFA-232 Maj Taj “Cabbie” Sareen RAF Lakenheath, UK 21 October 2015