The Virginia Museum of Transportation announces the “Wings Over Virginia” fundraising reception to kick off the development of a new Aviation Gallery on Thursday, November 4 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Museum, with the program beginning at 6 p.m. The featured speaker for the event is Commander Paul E. Galanti, former Vietnam POW and current Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veteran Services. The flight jacket belonging to the late Admiral John Summers will be presented to Cdr Galanti by Mary Louise Summers, widow of the Admiral, for display in the new gallery.
A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, Paul Galanti was trained as a Navy jet pilot and flight instructor. He flew 97 combat missions over North Vietnam in his A-4C Skyhawk before being shot down. He was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam’s infamous “Hanoi Hilton” for nearly seven years until his release in 1973. After a rehabilitation period, he held a series of Navy leadership posts, including a record-setting tenure as Commanding Officer of the Richmond Recruiting District.
After retiring from the Navy in 1983, he has been a leader in the private and non-profit sectors, as well, and is a much sought-after motivational speaker. Galanti is currently the National Director of the organization American Ex-Prisoners of War. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has recently appointed Paul Galanti as Commissioner of Veterans Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Galanti’s military decorations include the Silver Star, Two Legions of Merit for combat, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star for combat, nine Air Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal for combat and two Purple Hearts, and he has been inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.
The event’s Honorary Chairman is Captain William B. Overstreet, USAF (Ret). World War II Ace Bill Overstreet was part of the 357th fighter group that escorted bombers on their missions over Germany. His P-51 Mustang, dubbed “The Berlin Express,” is featured in a well-known painting by artist Len Krenzler that depicts Overstreet chasing a German fighter through the base of the Eiffel Tower—a German pilot who didn’t get away.
“We are excited about the leadership in this community and across Virginia who are helping us form our new aviation gallery,” said Donald F. Moser, who is both a pilot and the Museum’s Deputy Director. “After more than a year of planning, the gallery’s design is beginning to capture the thrill of flight and the amazing stories of Virginia’s pilots. To fly represents a dream shared by so many of our visitors—and by visitors of all ages.” The Museum previously housed an aviation gallery which was destroyed by an intense storm that blew the roof off the building in 2006.
The Leadership Committee for “Wings Over Virginia” includes Terry Austin, Bill Bestpitch, David Bowers, Butch Church, Roy D’Ardenne, John Edwards, Randy Foley, Brad Grose, Wes Hillman, William B. Hopkins, Captain Larry Johnson, Granger Macfarlane, Captain Harold McGrath, Bittle Porterfield, Claude Smith, David Smith, Jay Turner, Brigadier General Scott Van Cleef, Sherry Wallace, and Art Whittaker.