I (Val’s Mom, Doreen) just returned from four days in Dallas, Texas, where I attended the 26th annual WAI Conference with my good friend, Cecelia “Ceecee” Paizs. This conference has grown significantly from its early days and had over 4,000 people attending, exhibiting, volunteering and presenting this year. We were extremely happy to welcome back Chelsea Atwater, from Flagstaff, Arizona and to meet for the first time, Ashley Taylor, from McCall, Idaho. Chelsea was last year’s winner of the LT Valerie Cappelaere Delaney Memorial Scholarship and we selected Ashley to win the scholarship this year. Ashley’s on the left and Chelsea is on the right in both photos below.
We all had fun hanging out at the many exhibits. Chelsea really had fun at the Marine Corps booth where she earned a tee shirt that says “Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body” by completing NINE full pull ups. The Marines there were impressed!
We met up with one of Val’s old pilot friends, Candi Wilson, from Whidbey Island NAS and attended a flight suit social with many female military aviators. The theme of women helping other women resonated throughout the conference.
We were blessed and honored with a visit from Lisa and Phil Taylor of The American Fallen Soldiers Project, which is also based in Dallas. Phil is the talented artist who painted Val’s portrait. Phil surprised Ashley and Chelsea by announcing that his foundation would be sending them each $1,000.00 to supplement their scholarships!
Finally, Ceecee and I presented the 2015 LT Valerie Cappelaere Delaney Memorial Scholarship, worth $2,000.00 to Ashley Taylor at the Saturday morning general session of the conference in front of over 1,000 people! Ashley is currently working for the U.S. Forest Service as a Smoke Jumper, an elite fire fighter. She will use the funds to continue her flight lessons to become a pilot of the planes out of which she has been jumping. Ceecee and I also acknowledged Chelsea’s accomplishments of earning her helicopter pilot’s license and instrument rating since last year by awarding her a Wings for Val gold medal that my husband, Patrice, the engineer designed online using 3D printing. Chelsea is a Grand Canyon river guide and soon will be giving helicopter tours of the canyon.
Valerie was with us in spirit throughout the conference. She was certainly talked about, honored, celebrated, toasted and remembered many times during the four days! Her legacy will live on through Chelsea and Ashley as they become pilots with Val’s same characteristics of fearlessness, courage and service.