Aircraft on display at the Flying Leatherneck Historical Museum on Miramar Road. Courtesy of the museum

Volunteers supporting the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in Miramar are seeking community help to keep the 21-year-old institution open to the public.

The Marine Corps has announced plans to permanently close the museum on April 1 and sell or give away its aviation artifacts.

The outdoor collection of 48 aircraft includes Lady Ace 09, the helicopter that lifted the U.S. ambassador off the roof of the embassy in Saigon, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

The nonprofit Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation is asking San Diegans to contact members of Congress and the Biden administration to help save the museum.

“If you are concerned, like we are, about the decision to close the museum and want the Congress and Administration to reconsider, please sign our petition and contact your representatives to share with them why the museum is important to you, San Diego, the Marine Corps and the nation,” according to a statement on the foundation’s website.

Brig. Gen. Mike Aguilar, a retired Marine helicopter pilot who is now executive director of the foundation, said museum supporters understand the budget pressures facing the Marine Corps.

He said the museum’s $400,000 annual funding that comes out of the local command’s budget could be redirected to increase readiness.

“We understand this,” he said. “The priority is supporting the 3rd Marine Air Wing.”

In response, the foundation is proposing to take over financing and operation of the museum, in partnership with the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

“All we’re asking is to keep the museum open right now,” he said. “Allow time for us to work though the details.”

He said the museum creates goodwill for the Marine Corps and serves an important public outreach goal.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.