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GPSW Spouse Gives Back to Vets with Whale Watching Trips

One of two tour boats sets sail from Redondo Beach.  Through sponsor generosity, more than 200 vets and their families were treated to whale watching tours, March 21 and 29. (Photo by Lt. Col. Dave Learned)

One of two tour boats sets sail from Redondo Beach. Through sponsor generosity, more than 200 vets and their families were treated to whale watching tours, March 21 and 29. (Photo by Lt. Col. Dave Learned)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- For the second year in a row Tracy Learned, wife of Lt. Col. Dave Learned, GPS III Squadron, teamed up with sponsors from the L.A. Chapters of the National Defense Industrial Association and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association to honor the selfless commitment and sacrifices of local veterans and their families with a special, free whale watching boat trip. 

The sponsors' generosity funded two boat trips out of Redondo Sportfishing on March 21 and 29 for more than 200 veterans and their families. Volunteer naturalists from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, led by the aquarium' s Programs Director, Larry Fukuhara, narrated the trips. 

During the first trip, the boat found a pod of adult Pacific Gray Whales making their annual migration north to Alaskan feeding grounds. To the delight of the on-lookers, a Northern Elephant Seal also made a rare appearance. The second trip was no less thrilling, where the veterans found themselves surrounded by hundreds of common dolphins in a feeding frenzy. The boat then found a pod of three large adult Pacific Grays that pleased the crowd by showing their tail flukes. 

"I've never seen anything like it," said Tracy Learned. 

The response to the trips was overwhelming positive. "From a Vet in need, thank you for reminding me what we are here for, how beautiful life is, and all the time, effort and love you have unselfishly give of yourselves. I will do my best to...pay it forward!" Another wrote, "Your thoughtfulness and generosity went a long way to healing this Veteran's soul." 

Due to funding and space constraints, many veterans were turned away this year. However, Tracy is hopeful to expand the program... the annual event doubled its outreach from last year, and is expected to grow even more next year. 

"This event is great for our veterans, builds advocates for our whale watch program, and benefits our local businesses and professional organizations," said Mrs. Learned.