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National Museum of the USAF honors volunteers at annual banquet

  • Published
  • By Lisa M Riley

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force recently honored its force of more than 400 volunteers at its 42nd Annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet.

Gerard “Jerry” Mongelli of Xenia, Ohio was selected as the 2023 Museum Volunteer of the year for his dedication and excellence in serving the museum and the U.S. Air Force.

Nominated by the museum’s Special Events Division, Mongelli contributed over 746 hours in 2023 and has a total of 4,347 volunteer hours in his seven years with the museum. He is a trusted leader within the volunteer corps, conducting daily briefings, taking an active role in managing volunteer breakrooms, and volunteering his nights and weekends for special events. He is one of just a few “touch tour” qualified docents, able to conduct tours for visually impaired visitors. Mongelli has been instrumental in developing visitor experiences such as the Black History Month scavenger hunt and the Enlisted Exhibit tour.

The connection to the museum is a personal one for Mongelli, he once served on the crew of one of the museum’s most famous aircraft: Boeing VC 137C, SAM 26000 – the first jet aircraft specifically built for use by the President of the United States and most commonly known as the aircraft that returned President Kennedy’s body to Washington D.C. following his assassination.

Before he began volunteering, Mongelli would frequently visit the museum just to see this aircraft. One day he ran into a former crewmate, and current museum volunteer, who encouraged him to join the volunteer team.

He said, ‘Jerry, why don’t you become a volunteer here instead of coming over and visiting all the time,’” recalled Mongelli, “and I said, you know what - that is a good idea.”

Seven years later Mongelli is still dedicating his time and talents to the museum. Like most volunteers, Mongelli isn’t looking backwards. He is committed to telling the stories of our Airmen and Guardians to today’s youth as a way to inspire them.

“I find the museum to be extremely important to my history, and I find it extremely important to teach the next generation about our history,” said Mongelli. “I always felt it was important to teach the next generation about what I learned, so the museum is important to me.”

Other Volunteer of the Year nominees included George Coleman (Operations Division and Air Force Museum Foundation), Charles Farlow (Restoration Division), Don Gray (Special Events Division), Bob Recchiuti (Education Division), Tom Rohmiller (Collections Division) and Frank Wolfe (Exhibits Division).

Ten volunteers received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which honors those who have completed 4,000 hours or more of volunteer service. Those volunteers were Mark Georges, Gerry Hunt, Sharon Lemanek, Jim Liddle, Jerry Mongelli, Tom Ovington, Ralph Taylor, Jim VerStreate, George Walter, and Rick Wetzel.

Longevity awards were presented to seven volunteers for their years of service: Bob Moore and Beverly Smith, 25 years; Donna Mastin, 30 years; Larry Furrow, Bernie Roke and Anthony Hoog, 35 years and Sue Craven, 45 years.

Special recognition was given to Cynthia Brubaker as the museum’s longest serving volunteer with 50 years of dedicated service, accumulating more than 29,000 volunteer hours.

In 2023 the museum had 485 active volunteers who maintained the museum’s operation 362 days during the year, and contributing 92,939 hours of service which represents more than $2.7 million in value to the Air Force. The majority of volunteers are local to the Dayton area, but there are a number of volunteers who travel from across the country – as far away as Alaska - to share their time and passion with museum visitors.

This event was made possible through generous funding from the Air Force Museum Foundation (Federal Endorsement Not Implied).

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year thousands of visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit                                                                           


NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-3286.