By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
After an interruption last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular American Heroes Airshow returned to the Hansen Dam Sports Complex on Saturday. According to organizer Jim Paules, an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people attended the free event that highlighted a host of helicopters that serve the community plus dozens of recruiting teams that were on hand.
“We hosted 42 recruiting booths featuring teams from the DEA, FBI and the Secret Service along with a number of sheriffs – some of which came in from Riverside and San Diego County to join us,” said Paules. “We were happy to once again host the LASD Search and Rescue teams from [Altadena] and Santa Clarita areas.”
He noted that while many of the recruiting teams had participated with the American Heroes Airshow before, there were some new and unexpected participants.
“I had not heard of the U.S. Dept. of State – Diplomatic Security Service before but they were on-site doing a great job of discussing careers with our community!” said Paules.
A particularly moving event was a mid-morning naturalization ceremony that welcomed 40 new U.S. citizens, including five who were serving in the military.
“Hosting the U.S naturalization ceremony with the U.S. Citizens and Immigrant Services is an honor and privilege for our team,” he said. He added that it was a “special feeling” watching the ceremony, standing with members of the community as the Oath of Allegiance was recited by the new citizens, then having them spend their first day as U.S. citizens at the American Heroes Air Show.
The keynote speaker at the naturalization ceremony was Raffi A. Bahadarian, a task force officer/detective with the FBI Los Angeles Field Office and a Lebanese immigrant. In his speech, he congratulated the new citizens as they prepared to recite the Oath of Allegiance, telling them that they may have come to the ceremony from different countries but will leave as American citizens.
Paules also lauded the volunteers who made the event possible.
“As an admission free event our volunteer teams are crucial to running a safe and professional event and the recruiting [of] volunteers was one difference we experienced compared to prior years,” he said. “The new volunteers did a great job in carrying forward our legacy of aviation in community service. Event Director Steve Goldsworthy emphasized communication and safety to all of our volunteer teams and they worked together as a cohesive team.”
Paules said that he and his team welcomed the opportunity to share information regarding helicopters and how they serve the community.
“This event is not like the traditional air show with high-speed jets, colored smoke and pilots with the ‘right stuff,’” he said. “Our mission over the years has remained unchanged: to educate, communicate and demonstrate the value of rotary wing aviation and introduce the community to the pilots [who have] the ‘real stuff.’”