“This will remain the land of the free so long as it is the home of the brave” Elmer Davis

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You knew when you walked in the door of the beautiful Carrington Ballroom at the new Hilton Aventura that this was going to be a special meeting.   Young singing sensation Cameron Wheeler was singing as pianist Moises Herrera accompanied her, photographer Andy Goldstein was taking photos and R.O.T.C. cadets from Krop Senior High were waiting to present the colors.  Aventura Marketing Council/Chamber of Commerce (AMC) members were excited to meet Matthew “Whiz” Buckley…jet fighter pilot, author, national speaker and founder of TOPGUN Fighter Foundation dedicated to preventing veteran suicide.

Over 20 veterans who were employed by AMC businesses were there, happy to connect with other veterans and chat with Whiz.   Gary Pyott, Association 1st and Campbell Property Management, opened the meeting  by saying , “Although Veteran’s Day was last week, we should be recognizing our veterans every week and not just one designated week each year.  Our United States military are our brave defenders of peace around the world.”

Joeneyce Hamilton, a veteran who works at Memorial Hospital, gave an emotional rendition of our national anthem just after the colors were presented by the R.O.T.C. student cadets.

Doug Zaren, CEO of Memorial Hospital South, shared the great news that Memorial West was now building the Memorial Cancer Center near the hospital   ( Doug… MHS news…why you sponsor this particular meeting each year……..)

Al Eskanazy, Founder of the Community-Police Relations Foundation (C-PRF), was a supporting sponsor of the meeting.  Eskanazy, who has a strong commitment to helping the military, explained that his foundation was created to ensure that law enforcement would have the opportunity to have positive interactions directly with members of their community.  The C-PRF provides items that are needed by low-income areas…everything from food and clothing to bicycles.

Zaren and Eskanazy, both veterans themselves, then had the honor of introducing each veteran and active military member present, asking them to stand for the applause.

Guest speaker Whiz Buckley was introduced by Doug Zaren, “Our guest today has literally gone from the Front Lines to the Front Office. Matthew Buckley, callsign “WHIZ”, flew the F-18 Hornet for the US Navy for over 15 years, going from 0 to over 150 MPH in 1.5 seconds, off the business end of an aircraft carrier, at night, in bad weather, to deliver serious justice to our enemies, with the hardest part often being the harrowing landing back aboard a pitching deck on a ship at sea, at night, in bad weather.  He graduated from the Navy Fighter Weapons School, which we all know as TOP GUN, and flew 44 combat sorties over Iraq.”

Whiz spoke about his military experience, and how he went from a Navy jet pilot to a commercial airline pilot and back to a Navy jet pilot in one day…that fateful day of September 11, 2001.  The audience was mesmerized listening to him speak. “As a former Navy fighter pilot, the morning of September 11th was supposed to be my first day at work as a pilot for American Airlines. But when I heard about the attack, I raced out to the air station to man a combat air patrol with my fully-armed F/A-18 Hornet.  Weeks later, I was out of a job. Despite the challenges, my professional career zigzagged upwards in unexpected ways, giving me the chance to step out on my own.  I was able to leverage my talents in business and leadership by teaching others how to succeed as retail traders in the equity markets.   What has guided me is that I have always valued and striven for two key aspect of life:  success and altruism.”

The entire meeting and individual interviews were being taped by Leigh Simons Production for a future documentary on Whiz’s life journey.

For more information, visit  Memorial Healthcare System at www.mhs.net; Community-Police Relations Foundation at www.cprfcharity.org; or www.aventuramarketingcouncil.com

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