Sailors and Marines from China Lake attended the inaugural Salute to Our Heroes Gala, an event put on by Freedom Alliance at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif., June 15.
Nine Sailors and three Marines from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 (VX-9), as well as seven Sailors from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake attended the event. â€œWe were invited as military representatives to show our gratitude for their support and their contributions,â€ said Aviation Stuctural Mechanic Senior Chief Igor Vargas, VX-9, who attended the event. â€œWe represented the active duty side of the Navy.â€
The group from China Lake was comprised of junior and senior enlisted personnel. â€œIt was great; the younger Sailors loved it,â€ said Vargas. â€œIt gave the sponsors the opportunity to actually meet the active duty folks who benefit from their donations. It also gave our Sailors the chance to get out of the area for a night. Any opportunity to put their uniform on and represent the Navy is a good opportunity. A lot of the visitors and guests that attended saw how much we love and enjoy what we do and how we take pride in our Navy. I think that is why they donate and support us. â€
The event was put on by Freedom Alliance whose mission is to â€œadvance the American heritage of freedom by honoring and encouraging military service, defending the sovereignty of the United States and promoting a strong national defense,â€ according to their website. The organization has initiated multiple programs to complete this goal including their Military Leadership Academy, the Support Our Troops Program and the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund.
United States Marine Corps Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, Freedom Alliance chairman and host of Fox News â€œWar Stories,â€ was the keynote speaker for the event. â€œNorth talked about the changing military and asked the crowd to remember that former military is still part of the military, whether they had been in for four or 30 years,â€ said Vargas. â€œHe also said that if they get hurt they should remember that his organization will be there to help them. I think for a lot of the younger Sailors it really hit home. A lot of them realized how important what they signed up to do is.â€
Vargas said that he is hopeful Sailors and Marines stationed at China Lake will be invited back to the gala next year.