AFA National Report

Feb. 1, 2013

How To Make a Big Splash

When Howard L. Burke of the Red Tail Memorial Chapter in Florida received his Air Force Association Medal of Merit, he garnered prominent coverage—both for himself and for AFA.

The local Star-Banner daily newspaper in Ocala, Fla., and its online gave generous space to Burke, describing his Air Force career, from 1959 to 1979, as a B-52 and KC-135 engine technician at Fairchild AFB, Wash., and on Guam during the Vietnam War.

Red Tail Memorial Chapter member Howard Burke holds up one of his model aircraft—a Vietnam War-era B-52D—during a TV interview in Ocala, Fla. (Photo by Jacqui Janetzko/Ocala Star-Banner)

Florida Region President Michael H. Emig of Ocala told the newspaper reporter that Burke earned the AFA national-level award because “Howard is my left- and right-hand man and serves as executive vice president and membership chairman.”

Emig worked an unusual amount of information about AFA into this shot at media coverage. He detailed the association’s founding by Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold; the Tuskegee Airmen history that gave the local chapter its name; and the fact that only five Florida AFA members received Medals of Merit in 2012. This prompted the newspaper headline: “Air Force Vet in Exclusive Club.”

Along with mentioning AFA’s mission—including its science, technology, engineering, and math education focus—and even plugging CyberPatriot, posted a video on Burke.

During the five-minute clip, he displays Vietnam War-era model aircraft that he assembled. He reminisces about being called away from a Christmas dinner because all eight engines on a B-52 needed changing, due to a bird strike. And Burke shows old photos and unit patches from his time in the Air Force.

Emig explained that he received this comprehensive coverage because he has submitted articles to the newspaper repeatedly over the years and built up a relationship with its staff members. “The key is never to give up,” he advised.

Pearl Harbor Remembered

New Yorkers remembered the 71st anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor with the annual “Dropping of the Roses” in the waters around the Statue of Liberty on Dec. 7. The Long Island Chapter has organized this event for the past 17 years.

The commemoration began on this latest December morning in a hangar at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, N.Y. Five survivors of the 1941 bombing and strafing of US military facilities on Oahu attended the service: Richard Abeles, Gerard Barbosa, Bernard Berner, Seymour Blutt, and Michael Montelione.

Chapter President Fred Di Fabio reported that the nearly 500 guests included local politicians and Col. Thomas J. Owens II, commander of the 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Arpt., N.Y. Owens, a chapter member, helped present AFA Citations to the Pearl Harbor vets.

The ceremony culminated with a blessing of 71 American Beauty roses, one for each anniversary year. Navy sailors carried the roses out of the hangar to a World War II-era SNJ-2 flown by an airshow outfit called the Geico Skytypers. The pilot took off from Long Island and timed his arrival at New York Harbor so his backseater could open the canopy and drop bouquets of roses into waters around the Statue of Liberty at exactly 12:55 p.m., the East Coast time of the Pearl Harbor attack.

“This event reaches thousands of Long Islanders,” commented Di Fabio. “Long Island Channel 12 cable news network covered the event and broadcasts the ‘Dropping of the Roses’ story throughout the day.”

Joseph S. Hydrusko, a native of Massapequa, N.Y., carried out the first commemoration in 1970, casting the flowers from a 1929 Curtiss Robin. He had been painting a Navy hospital ship at Pearl Harbor that Sunday morning 71 years ago. The Japanese sank USS Oklahoma, near Hydrusko, and in a letter printed in Life Magazine in 1957, he described how he joined a group of rescuers in using an acetylene torch and then an air pressure chisel to rescue sailors trapped inside the battleship.

Hydrusko conducted the Dropping of the Roses until his death in 1983.

Cowboy Grub

At the Virginia State Meeting’s dinner, hosted by the Langley Chapter in Newport News in December, several guests pause for a photo. L-r: Barbara Van Cleef, AFA Vice Chairman for Field Operations Scott Van Cleef, Louise Wilson, State President Peter Jones, and Blair Ellis. All Virginia chapters sent representatives to the gathering.

At Luke AFB, Ariz., in November, the Frank Luke Chapter hosted one of its regular dinners for families of deployed airmen.

Some 75 guests went through the buffet line, set up at the base’s chapel annex. The room’s decorations conveyed the western theme: checkered tablecloths, metal washtubs, boots, and a saddle. The “cowboy grub” featured western ranch chicken and meatloaf, baked beans, corn on the cob, and cornbread, all prepared by chapter member Don Harris.

Serving up the vittles were chapter members Harry Bailey, Luisa C. Bailey, Doris Goetz, Sharon Marvin, Fred G. Seifritz, and other volunteers.

Chapter VP Holly J. Gramkow opened the evening by introducing the 56th Fighter Wing’s new command chief, CMSgt. David R. Staton, and representatives from the Family Support Center and base legal office. All spoke briefly about the services available to families of deployed military members.

Chapter Communications VP Luisa Bailey said the chapel pays for the food for these gatherings, held each month, but sponsoring organizations like the Luke Chapter handle food preparation and other details.

Along with the buffet, this month’s party offered live music from a local guitarist, face painting for the youngsters, and 50 gift bags donated by the base exchange.

More toys ’n goodies came from Community Partners such as the mayor of nearby Peoria, Bob Barrett, and the Commemorative Air Force wing in Mesa; they donated an airplane ride in a vintage Stearman. Even the base commissary pitched in, with two cakes.

October Outing

In Sumter, S.C., in October, the Swamp Fox Chapter co-sponsored an annual golf tournament fund-raiser with local units of the Military Officers Association of America and the Daedalians.

“Very good turnout,” said Chapter President David T. Hanson. Some 40 players teed off at the Sunset Country Club.

Afterward, the three sponsors split the overall profits—just over $1,300 for each—generated by entry fees and by selling ads displayed at the tees. The chapter uses its share for a $500 scholarship awarded to a University of South Carolina Sumter student and to support its 22 Visions of Exploration classrooms.

Chapter member Pete Watcher served as the golf outing’s director, with C. J. Troyer as treasurer and Tony Myers handling the fund raising. Hanson said 60 local businesses bought tee box ads.

Low Country Boil

56th Fighter Wing Command CMSgt. David Staton holds a young guest at the Frank Luke Chapter’s dinner for families of airmen deployed from Luke AFB, Ariz. Staton is a new chapter member.

“Here in South Carolina,” wrote E. G. Shuler III, “we call it Low Country Boil.” The president of the Columbia Palmetto Chapter was referring to the region located along the state’s coast and to the main dish at the group’s November meeting: Shrimp in their shells, kielbasa sausage, chunks of potatoes, and corn on the cob, boiled together in a flavorful broth.

A new chapter member, Doug Truax, came up with the idea of hosting the shrimp boil, Shuler said. Truax donated 25 pounds of the shellfish, did the prep work, and cooked. Judy Truax set up for the dinner, held at the club on McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Columbia.

Shuler said the chapter gained two new members that evening.

Next up: More regional cooking. The chapter is considering a fish fry, this spring.

More Chapter News

Claude J. Farinha, for whom California’s C. Farinha Gold Rush Chapter is named, died Sept. 18, 2012, and chapter members gathered in November to remember him and to honor his family. Chapter President Ronald Azarcon wrote that Farinha’s wife, Shirley, had been named California Air Force Association Spouse of the Year for 2011, “but due to her husband’s deteriorating health had never been presented the award.” He gave the award to her at the Nov. 29 chapter event that Farinha’s three daughters—Lori Robinson, Jana Cira, and Sheri Farinha—also attended. Chaplain Whit Woodward spoke to the audience about Claude Farinha’s background, encompassing 35 years with Air Force Logistics Command and a myriad of volunteer activities after retirement in 1986 from the Senior Executive Service ranks.

The Blue Ridge Chapter in North Carolina met in December to collect clothing for the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry’s Veterans Restoration Quarters. Chapter Secretary William D. Duncan Jr. reported that chapter members donated socks, sweatshirts, coats, shoes, and thermal underwear to the facility. Through volunteers backed by a Department of Veterans Affairs grant and per diem contract, the Veterans Restoration Quarters houses more than 240 veterans. It provides training and personal-skills building to help vets land a job and find more-permanent housing.

In Louisiana, the Maj. Gen. Oris B. Johnson Chapter gathered in November for a holiday celebration that featured Louisiana State University in a big way. Past Chapter and State President Michael F. Cammarosano hosted the dinner and meeting. He reported that the guest list included LSU cadets, members of Silver Wings—a service organization supporting AFROTC—and three chapter members associated with Det. 310: Chapter President James P. Jones, Luke A. LaVergne, and Lt. Col. Mary McKeon. Jones was LSU corps commander from 1992 to 1995. LaVergne was an instructor in the late 1970s, and McKeon heads the unit today.


The Long Island Chapter-sponsored “Dropping of the Roses” takes place in the waters around the Statue of Liberty. Here’s a view from the SNJ-2.

Geico Skytyper Joseph Daly prepares to drop the American Beauties from his backseat of thr SNJ-2. (From video by Fred Freketic)

A USAF Honor Guard from JB Langley-Eustis, Va., performed at the Virginia State Meeting.

George Golden, Sandy Dorsey, and Virginia State President Peter Jones at the meeting, hosted by the Langley Chapter in Newport News, Va.

Steele Chapter President F. Gavin MacAloon (l), also a state Executive Council member, presents a check to Jones at the state meeting. The state’s hospitality suite raised these funds at the AFA National Convention and Air & Space Conference.

At the state meeting, Jones and Mildred Cuthriell establish the Bill Cuthriell Scholarship Fund. William Cuthriell Jr. was a Tidewater Chapter officer until his death in October.

At a C. Farinha Gold Rush Chapter meeting are (l-r) Whit Woodward, Lori Robinson, Jana Cira, Shirley Farinha holding her Spouse of the Year award, Sheri Farinha, and Chapter President Ronald Azarcon.

The Maj. Gen. Oris B. Johnson Chapter meeting brought together three LSU AFROTC commanders: Luke LaVergne, Lt. Col. Mary McKeon, and Chapter President James Jones (l-r).

Knoxville TV station WATE interviewed Jack Westbrook of the Gen. Bruce K. Holloway Chapter for its Pearl Harbor day coverage. A screengrab from the video shows his P-51.


157th Fighter Sq/169th Fighter Wg/SCANG Pilots. May 4 at McEntire JANGB, SC. Contact: Bones Marshall (803-776-8693) (

444th Fighter-Interceptor Sq. April 14-16 at the Sheraton Hotel, Charleston, SC. Contact: Wallace Mitchell, 535 Mimosa Rd., Sumter, SC 29150 (803-469-3297).

525th FIS, Bitburg, Germany. April 26-28 in Las Vegas. Contact: Frank Litt, PO Box 33435, Fort Worth, TX 76162 (817-294-1136) (

Air Force Navigators & Observers Assn. April 8-10 in Savannah, GA. Contact: Jim Bannerman (386-257-3853) (

Air Force Public Affairs Alumni Assn, retired, active military, and civilian members in public affairs, broadcasting, band, and multimedia fields. April 25-28 at the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Contact: John Terino (703-239-2704) (

All 3 Wars Veterans Assn, WWII, Korea, & Vietnam, all services. May 16-19 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Antonio. Contacts: Lee Yagel (623-399-9355) (

Aviation Cadet Pilot Tng Class 54-G. April 11-14 in Phoenix. Contact: John Schaefer, 18894 N. 69 Ave., Glendale, AZ 85308 (623-561-5000) (

Unit reunion notices should be sent four months ahead of the event to, or mail notices to “Unit Reunions,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198. Please designate the unit holding the reunion, time, location, and a contact for more information. We reserve the right to condense notices.