Helicopter Day at Falcon Field in Mesa on Saturday brought veterans organizations and aeronautical enthusiasts together for a fundraiser with military aircraft and vehicles on display.
Helicopters from the Arizona National Guard, Boeing, and the Mesa and Phoenix police departments were among the exhibits. Boeing showed off an experimental helicopter model called the AH6. National Guard pilots took pictures and answered questions about the Apache A64-A model.
Wingspan Air brought their private collection of World War II aircraft and military vehicles, including tanks. They offered helicopter rides for an additional charge, but the rides were postponed due to the rain.
The event was presented by Wingspan Air Heritage Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that supports veterans. The organization was founded by Jeff Furnari, who serves as the president and executive director. The foundation focuses on recognizing veterans and honoring their service.
The foundation honors veterans by supporting parades and events. Last year they donated seven military vehicles and a military plane for a flyover at the Mesa Veterans Day Parade. Funari also holds an annual golf outing that honors a veteran guest.
"I feel people don't know enough about our vets," he said.
This May Wingspan Air Heritage Foundation plans to use some of its military vehicles in the museum they will be opening in Superstition Springs Mall, Funari said. He has leased a space in the mall for the museum that will include individual stories and accounts of veterans spanning from the World Wars to the Iraq War.
"These men and women are writing the history books," he said. "We are committed to helping them."
Hot dogs and sodas were being served by the Mesa Veterans Parade Association. The association will use the proceeds to help pay for the Mesa Veterans Day Parade. The association has organized the parade in Mesa since 2006 when the city cut funding.
"We can cut a lot of things, but we can't cut that - veterans make this country," said Frank Alger, past president of the Mesa Veterans Parade Association.
The association wants to create partnerships with similar organizations that share common goals. So this year they have partnered with Wingspan Air for Helicopter Day to support local veterans, said Denise Majors, fundraising chairwoman for the Mesa Veterans Parade Association.
"Veterans need our support all year long, not just on Veterans Day," she said.