Nativity student wins third place in Flying Leatherneck essay contest

Chloe Mullen with her hero grandfather Bill Haynor and teacher Jasmin Zures,
Chloe Mullen with her hero grandfather Bill Haynor and teacher Jasmin Zures,

Rancho Santa Fe’s Chloe Mullen, a sixth grader at The Nativity School, won third place in the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation essay contest with a tribute to her hero grandfather Bill Haynor, an Air Force veteran. Haynor, also a Rancho Santa Fe resident, joined his granddaughter for an award presentation at the school on June 9.

“My grandfather is a great believer in giving back to his country. He was given a good life, in a great nation, and wanted to give back at a time when the country needed him most – the Vietnam War,” wrote Chloe in her essay. “He made a decision that would change his life, and joined the Air Force after graduating from college.”

“My grandfather risked his life for our country.”

For her third place win in the middle school division, Chloe and her teacher Jasmin Zures both received cash prizes.

The essay contest, a partnership between the Flying Leathernecks and the Character Development Resource Center at the University of San Diego, was founded by World War II Marine pilot Major Glenn Ferguson. The contest encourages students in grades 6-12 to develop and improve their writing skills as they address core values of the U.S. Marine Corps: honor, courage and commitment. The question for this year’s contest was: “Who is your hero and why?”

Now 99 years old, Ferguson said he was thrilled with this year’s entries and the success of the program.

In her essay Chloe described how once joining the Air Force, Haynor went into avionics, the electronic systems for planes and missiles. When he was stationed at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan he started a Boy Scout Troop to help inspire the local boys to give back to the country as he did.

Haynor rose up the rankings from second lieutenant to captain and while stationed in Okinawa, the planes that flew over Vietnam were his responsibility. Chloe wrote that her grandfather “used knowledge as his weapon” as he was in charge of maintaining electronic systems on B-52 jets and Hound Dog missiles, including radio, radar, bomb navigation, Doppler inertial guidance and electronic countermeasure systems.

“My favorite story is when he was on a mission, dropping bombs over North Vietnam, suddenly, the enemy shot a surface-to-air missile (SAM) towards the plane. The aircraft’s electronic ping device, or electronic countermeasure device, was not working,” Chloe wrote. “For a moment, they thought that they were at the communists’ mercy, but fortunately my grandfather had a simple strategy that he thought just might work by turning the system off and back on again. It worked, the missile flew off course and did not hit them.

“During distance learning, because of COVID-19, there were several times my computer was not working. Remembering grandpa’s story, I turned the computer off and back on, and it worked.”

Chloe wrote that her grandfather’s story has inspired her to join National Charity League this fall, to continue the family tradition and give back to her community.

“Thank you for your service, Grandpa Bill, you are my hero.”

In March, the United States Marine Corps closed the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in Miramar after more than 20 years. Plans for a new museum location and keeping the Marine Corps aircraft collection intact are underway. To learn more, visit