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GPSW Spouse Organizes Effort to Give Back to Area Vets

There she blows! A whale comes up for air off the California coast between Long Beach and Catalina Island. Veterans and family members spotted numerous whales, dolphins and seabird on a whale watching trip sponsored by the local chapters of AFA and AFCEA. (Courtesy photo)

There she blows! A whale comes up for air off the California coast between Long Beach and Catalina Island. Veterans and family members spotted numerous whales, dolphins and seabird on a whale watching trip sponsored by the local chapters of AFA and AFCEA. (Courtesy photo)

Veterans and family members spot whales, dolphins and seabirds off the coast of Long Beach. (Courtesy photo)

Veterans and family members spot whales, dolphins and seabirds off the coast of Long Beach. (Courtesy photo)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Recently, the Air Force Association's Schriever Chapter and the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association - Los Angeles Chapter sponsored more than 220 veterans and their families on a free whale watching trip. Tracy Learned, wife of Lt. Col. David Learned, GPS IIF Mission Integration chief, was the mastermind behind the event, which has held for the third consecutive year.

"A no-cost whale watching trip is a great way to honor the selfless commitment and sacrifices of our Los Angeles Veterans and their families," said Tracy, "and we couldn't provide this special experience without the continued generosity of our sponsors."

Working through six local support organizations, the event targeted veterans who are in financial need, returning from combat deployments or living in transition homes, and families who's loved-ones are currently deployed.

"A day on the ocean is therapeutic, especially for our veterans and families faced with the hardships of overcoming combat-induced physical and mental stressors. The boat trips provided our veteran's an opportunity to leave worries behind, as they focused in amazement at Grey Whales over 40 feet long, weighing over 30 tons, escorting newborn calves between the waters off Alaska and Baja California," she said. "Veterans were also rewarded with the appearance of Fin Whales, the second largest living animal after the Blue Whale. Often referred to as 'greyhounds of the sea,' Fins can swim up to 23 mph in short bursts. Other crowd pleasers included hundreds of common dolphins and diverse seabirds that populate the South Bay."

In addition to the trip being a getaway for the veterans, this event brings awareness of professional organizations such as the event's sponsors  and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, which provided volunteer naturalists to narrate the trip.

"It also provides an opportunity to build marine conservation advocates while supporting our local businesses," said Tracy. "Unfortunately, like the last two years, scores of veterans were turned away. The demand is simply greater than our budget but we continue to grow each year...great organizations doing great things for great people!"