Photos of cool aviation event at Gillespie Field!

Someone looks at a restored North American L-17 aircraft on display at Gillespie Field during a special Air Group One event.
Someone looks at a restored North American L-17 airplane on display at Gillespie Field during a special Air Group One event.

Yesterday I enjoyed a very cool event at Gillespie Field in El Cajon. Air Group One, the San Diego wing of the Commemorative Air Force, put on a unique Warbird Expo and Aviation & Military Memorabilia Swap Meet out on the airfield’s tarmac!

All sorts of restored World War II aircraft were on display, as well as jeeps, vintage automobiles and other unique vehicles–even old tractors! I noticed that a few of the historical airplanes belong to Air Group One; others are stationed at Gillespie Field or flew in for the occasion.

The swap meet portion of the event featured all sort of artwork and aviation collectibles. Occasionally a World War II airplane would take off, land or roar by. Visitors could purchase a short ride around Gillespie Field! While Air Group One often participates in airshows, I was told this was their first ever event of this type. Hopefully it becomes an annual tradition!

Read the photo captions to learn more!

Checking out a row of shiny restored aircraft from the World War II era.
Checking out a row of shiny restored aircraft from the World War II era.
People were riding vintage military planes that helped the Allies to win World War II.
People were riding vintage military planes that helped the Allies to win World War II.
A banner explains that Air Group One's restored SNJ-5 is available for warbird rides for those who love the sound and feel of vintage round engines.
A banner explains that Air Group One’s restored SNJ-5 is available for warbird rides for those who love the sound and feel of vintage round engines.
Someone leaves the cockpit of "Sassy" after a ride around "The Patch" of Gillespie Field in El Cajon.
Someone leaves the cockpit of “Sassy” after a ride “around the patch” at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.
This golf cart was modified to look like a tiny jet airplane! It even has a tailhook!
This golf cart was modified to look like a tiny jet airplane! It even has a tailhook!
Guys hang out beside a 1943 Ford GPW that was assigned to Captain Victor Lucky Moen of the 13th AAF on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, during World War II.
Guys hang out beside a 1943 Ford GPW that was assigned to Captain Victor “Lucky” Moen of the 13th AAF on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, during World War II.
I was surprised to see several old farm tractors out on display among the airplanes!
I was surprised to see several old farm tractors out on display among the aircraft!
Several restored Beechcraft T-34 Mentor aircraft were out on the Gillespie Field tarmac. These planes served as versatile military trainers after World War II.
Several restored Beechcraft T-34 Mentor aircraft were out on the Gillespie Field tarmac. These planes served as versatile military trainers after World War II.
This super nice guy was a pilot for the United States Air Force. He now flies T-34 aircraft as a member of the March Field Aero Club in Riverside.
This super nice guy was a pilot for the United States Air Force. He now flies T-34 aircraft as a member of the March Field Aero Club in Riverside.
Visitors to Air Group One's first ever Warbird Expo and Militaria Swap Meet check out more vintage airplanes at Gillespie Field.
Visitors to Air Group One’s first ever Warbird Expo and Militaria Swap Meet check out more vintage airplanes at Gillespie Field.
This Stearman (Boeing) Model 75 biplane from the World War II era was painted to honor victims of 9/11.
This Stearman (Boeing) Model 75 biplane from the World War II era was painted to honor victims of 9/11.
Victims of the September 11 attacks are remembered on either side of the historical airplane.
Victims of the September 11 attacks are remembered on either side of the historical airplane.
American Airlines Flight 11 and Flight 77.
American Airlines Flight 11 and Flight 77.
United Airlines Flight 175 and Flight 93.
United Airlines Flight 175 and Flight 93.
This particular 1945 Stearman PT-17, an Army primary trainer, was the last airplane owned and flown by legendary actor Steve McQueen. The N number N-3188 was McQueen's reform school number!
This particular 1945 Stearman PT-17, an Army primary trainer, was the last airplane owned and flown by legendary actor Steve McQueen. The N number N-3188 was McQueen’s reform school number!
Looking into the rear cockpit of Steve McQueen's old Stearman PT-17.
Looking into the rear cockpit of Steve McQueen’s old Stearman PT-17.
I saw lots of cool artwork at the Expo.
I saw lots of cool artwork at the Expo.
All sorts of miscellaneous aviation antiques, gear and parts were for sale at some swap meet tables.
All sorts of miscellaneous aviation antiques, gear and parts were for sale at some swap meet tables.
Many books could be found, including one about the history of soaring in San Diego.
Many books could be found, including one about the history of soaring in San Diego.
Aviation souvenirs and stuff for sale at the swap meet included pins and patches.
Aviation souvenirs and collectibles for sale at the swap meet included pins and patches.
Lots of vintage cars were also on display. The San Diego Model A Club was well represented.
Lots of vintage cars were also on display. The San Diego Model A Club was well represented.
Other vehicles at the event included an old San Diego Police paddy wagon and a unique patrol car and taxi combo that discourages drinking and driving.
Other vehicles at the event included an old San Diego Police paddy wagon and an eye-catching San Diego Police Museum patrol car/taxi combo that discourages drinking and driving.
Keep 'em Flying.
Keep ’em Flying.
Checking out a Ryan STM-2 manufactured in San Diego in 1940. It now belongs to the Allen Airways Flying Museum at Gillespie Field.
Checking out a Ryan STM-2 manufactured in San Diego in 1940. It now belongs to the Allen Airways Flying Museum at Gillespie Field.

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9/11 Firefighter’s legacy: Two Sons and Stickball.

Tampa Chargers huddle up during the 2017 Labor Day Stickball Tournament in Little Italy. Photo by Margie Jones.
Tampa Chargers huddle up during the 2017 Labor Day Stickball Tournament in Little Italy. Photo by Margie Jones.

An important event in San Diego history took place over the Labor Day weekend. It involved a firefighter hero who saved lives during 9/11, his two sons, and the game of stickball.

The following inspirational article is contributed by Margie Jones of 4 Heroes 4 Life:

The 2017 Labor Day Stickball Tournament in Little Italy was one of the largest in its 19 year history with a field of 16 teams, four from New York and one from Tampa Bay, Florida. New York transplant Bob Ortiz and a group of players brought the Bronx-style tradition of street baseball to California in the early 1990s, later passing the torch to brothers Louie and Joey Centanni.

This year’s tournament held a special meaning for the San Diego and New York stickball communities, bringing the return of Skylar and Austin Mercado, sons of former Emperor’s Stickball League President Steve Mercado. Mercado and his family brought the team to San Diego from the Bronx in 2001 when the boys were 6 and 2 years old. The Mercado family made a lasting impression on many San Diegans, including SD City Firefighter and Stickball League Commissioner Willie Blas and Fire Marshal Mark George. After saying their goodbyes, Steve returned to NYC and went straight to work on 9/11, courageously saving lives. He was one of 12 of 13 from Engine 40 and Ladder 35 to lose their lives on that day, along with over 400 NYC first responders.

This weekend, Skylar and Austin Mercado brought the legacy of their Dad and Grandfather to Stickball in San Diego. Their team, the Tampa Chargers, was undefeated going into the Championship Game on Monday but could not best the local Sultans of Swat, who took home the trophy this year. We hope the Mercados experienced the outpouring of love and support for these two fine young men, their family, and the entire NYC community of heroes.

So that Steve and all heroes on that day will be NEVER FORGOTTEN, Mark and Willie as sponsored by 4 Heroes 4 Life and Veteran Adventures will be hosting a 9/11 NEVER FORGOTTEN Charity Golf Tournament and Community Extravaganza on September 11. Proceeds of the event will benefit the Steven Mercado Foundation, and funds for Engine 40 and Ladder 35, and the NYC Emergency Fund. This is the first of an annual event on 9/11 as an opportunity to bring community together in support of our fallen heroes and for our nation’s healing. Please join us. Register or donate here.

Commemorative bat honoring 9/11 firefighter Steve Mercado. Photo by Margie Jones.
Commemorative bat honoring 9/11 firefighter Steve Mercado. Photo by Margie Jones.
Tampa Chargers' Austin Mercado. Photo by Margie Jones.
Tampa Chargers’ Austin Mercado. Photo by Margie Jones.
Tampa Chargers' Skylar Mercado. Photo by Margie Jones.
Tampa Chargers’ Skylar Mercado. Photo by Margie Jones.
Power hitting. Photo by Margie Jones.
Swinging with heart on a San Diego street. Photo by Margie Jones.
2017 Championship Game final score. Photo by Margie Jones.
2017 Championship Game final score. Photo by Margie Jones.
Stickball family. Photo by Margie Jones.
Stickball brings many together. Photo by Margie Jones.

Heroes at San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

San Diego 911 Memorial Stair Climb sign and building.
San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb sign and event building.

I saw on the news this morning that a special event was being held to remember the firemen and other heroes who responded with selfless courage during the 9/11 attack, thirteen years ago. Firefighters, wearing full gear, would climb ninety stories of stairs, simulating a climb of the World Trade Center towers shortly after they were struck.

My meandering Sunday walk around downtown started late, and by the time I was near the Convention Center, it was early afternoon. But I figured I’d swing around to the tall Hilton hotel to see if the event was still underway.

The stair climbing was over. But many firefighters and emergency responders from San Diego and the surrounding region were still in the park in front of the thirty story Hilton, enjoying food and fellowship.

I personally can’t imagine climbing the equivalent of three tall Hilton hotel buildings wearing all that awkward, extremely heavy gear! These heroes of today, with all of their might, honored the memory of those who endangered their own lives trying to save others.

Firefighters on anniversary of 911 passed under American flag.
Firefighters on anniversary of 9/11 passed under an American flag.
Heavy firefighting gear flung off after a very difficult climb.
Heavy firefighting gear flung off after a very difficult climb.
Emergency responders and the public were invited to the meaningful event.
Emergency responders and the public were invited to the meaningful event.
A piece of the fallen World Trade Center on display by stage.
A piece of the fallen World Trade Center on display by stage.
Some firemen head home with gear after the Sunday morning event.
Some firemen head home with gear after the Sunday morning event.
Used firefighter turnout bags and skateboards sold in front of Hilton.
Used firefighter turnout bags and unique skateboards sold in front of Hilton.
This little house simulated fire fighting for children. They saved a teddy bear!
This little house simulated fire fighting for small children. They saved a teddy bear!
The selfless courage of 911 firefighters is honored.
A flag, a firetruck and many heroes.  The selfless courage of 9/11 firefighters is honored.

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