More than 650 business professionals, community leaders and elected officials filled a ballroom at the Virginia Beach Convention Center on December 8 for the Chamber’s 27th Annual Meeting of the Membership. Former Virginia Governors George Allen and Tim Kaine were among the attendees.
The USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia invited more than 20 guests from Virginia's Wounded Warriors® program to attend the luncheon. In the lobby, the USO set up static displays for exclusive preview. Guests toured a USO Mobile Canteen and viewed the living quarters of a soldier at a Forward Operating Base.
The Chamber recognized outgoing and incoming volunteer leadership. The Chamber’s 2010/2011 Chair, Nelson Adcock (GeoEnvironmental Resources, Inc.), passed the gavel to 2012 Chair Maurice Jones (Pilot Media). During the luncheon, John Wilson (WBR Insurance) and Michael Dudley (Optima Health Plan) were both honored with the Chamber’s 2011 Volunteer of the Year Award. Under their leadership, the Chamber’s Annual Resource Campaign exceeded its goal by 7% raising more than $800,000 in needed trade and cash resources.
Retired Air Force fighter pilot Brian Shul served as the Keynote Speaker, presenting an inspiration story to the crowd. Brian flew 212 air support missions in Viet Nam before being shot down. Severely burned in the crash, he was given little chance of survival. After a year in hospitals and 15 reconstructive surgeries, Brian surprised his doctors and returned to flying, ultimately piloting the SR-71 Blackbird.
“This airplane couldn’t be duplicated, caught or shot down. People were amazed. It’s the most remarkable jet of the century.” Brian said, “I started my second life after the accident” and reinforced his message of “living your passion and following your dream.” Brian explained that his passions were flying and photography. On large display screens, he showed the crowd breathtaking photos he took over the years of the SR-71 and said, “I was known as the camera guy.” In 1990, both Brian and the SR-71 retired. Brian closed with telling the audience, “Don’t ever, ever do anything in life, no matter how serious, dangerous or important it is, that you don’t have an ounce of fun and enjoy doing it.” Currently, Brian owns Gallery One, a photo studio in northern California, and divides his time between writing, photography, public speaking, and backpacking in the high Sierras. Following the program, Shul conducted a signing of his book Sled Driver, Flying the World’s Fastest Jet.
Thank you to sponsors: Wells Fargo (Presenting); Virginia Beach Convention Center & Distinctive Gourmet (Host); Bon Secours Virginia Health System, Clark Nexsen (Speaker); Cox Communications (Media); and BB&T, NeedToConnect (Silver).