By Emily Klinga


Pensacola has a deep-rooted history of military presence positioned by our very own Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. Proclaimed a Naval Air Station in 1914, NAS Pensacola is renowned as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation” supporting the initial flight training operations for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard for every naval aviator, naval flight officer, and enlisted aircrewman. It is no wonder that the Greater Pensacola area is also home to more than 35,000 military retirees.

Military personnel and their families have proven to give back to the Pensacola community as well. According to the Northwest Florida Economic Development Alliance, FloridaWest, “The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest economic engine in Greater Pensacola, with more than $7.8 billion in total economic impact.”

As NAS Pensacola brings many military personnel and their families through town, the local businesses and organizations love to show their support through various forms of military appreciation. Annual appreciation opportunities include the Rosamond Johnson Day at Rosamond Johnson Beach, Star-Spangled Salute: Military Appreciation Festival, Red, White & Birdies Spring Golf Classic, Wreaths Across America, various fundraisers for the USO, and so much more! These simple acts of appreciation from local businesses and community members show dedication to those who serve our country, community, and businesses every day.

To many young and eager flight students pursuing their aviation careers, Pensacola is the first duty station appointed to them among many during their aviation track. A very welcomed duty station with access to beautiful beaches right out the base’s back gate and a plethora of recreation opportunities onboard such as golf, sailing, scuba diving, and much more. NAS Pensacola features civilian-friendly activities as well, including the National Naval Aviation Museum, the National Flight Academy, and the Pensacola Lighthouse. Visitors and locals can oftentimes catch the sight of the famous Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron practicing above their home base.

NAS Pensacola is the launch point for naval aviator’s service in the sky, but for many, it represents much more- a harbor of amazing memories and perhaps life-changing moments that will never be forgotten. After traveling the country and the world pursuing their duties, it is common for many military retirees to choose Pensacola as their hometown and ideal retirement destination.

Next is a testimonial of the experience of a Marine Corps Pilot and his family who made the very decision to return to Pensacola, a story that many in Pensacola who lived similar paths can truly relate to.

(Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)

In 1990, Robert was attending flight school as a Marine Corps Pilot in training. He was having the time of his life living in a condo on the beach in Perdido Key with one of his fellow flight school buddies, of course just walking distance from the world-famous Flora-Bama. Robert had so many amenities living the coastal lifestyle, one of his favorites being the vast amount of water recreation available. He especially loved spending days scuba diving and spearfishing in the gulf.

One night, Robert met Faye while enjoying the nightlife in nearby downtown Pensacola. They met at Trader Jon’s, which was the watering hole of choice for U.S. Military pilots who trained in Pensacola known for the eccentric owner Martin “Trader Jon” Weissman and his massive collection of Navy memorabilia. Faye, the sweet, homegrown Alabama girl, did not realize at the time, that within the next two years she herself would be inducted into the military way of life.

**Sidenote: (While Trader Jon’s officially closed its doors in 2003, it is marked by a historical landmark sign at its original location on South Palafox street!)

Before leaving Perdido Key for Robert’s next military assignment, Robert and Faye were married at the Naval Aviation Memorial Chapel located on board NAS Pensacola. The beautiful ceremony concluded with a traditional military saber arch to salute the newlyweds. Dressed in uniform, Robert’s squadron friends lined up in formation just outside the chapel doorway. On command, the saber team raised their swords in a high arch and presented the married couple as they proceeded through the arch, where Faye was officially welcomed to the Marine Corps. The ceremony followed with a lovely reception with family and friends at the Mustin Beach Officers Club overlooking Pensacola Bay.

Life carried on for Robert and Faye after Pensacola- they had three amazing children, moved around to six different states, and created many incredible memories with new family and friends along the way. Years later, Robert ended his active-duty service but remained a part of the Marine Corps Reserves- continuing to work as a pilot in both the civilian and military sectors. After their youngest child graduated high school and left for college, Robert officially retired from the Marine Corps, after 32 years of service.

Robert and Faye were ready to choose where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

Needless to say, the decision was a no-brainer; back to where it had all begun and where they made so many of their fondest memories- back to the place where old friends resided, and the military-loving community felt like family. Pensacola was a place where they could cherish old memories and make new ones for many years to come. How could they resist a destination with idyllic white-sand beaches, year-round breathtaking sunsets, and temperate beach-perfect weather?

Since their return to Perdido Key, Robert and Faye have been able to share their experiences with their children. Their oldest son even began his own career in the U.S. Navy, coming through NAS Pensacola for his training as a Naval Flight Officer. Robert was more than honored with the exceptional experience of pinning the wings of gold on his son at NAS Pensacola, the place where his very own military aviation journey began.

Today, Robert and Faye live happily in the Perdido Key area while enjoying boating, fishing, golfing, eating oysters, and sipping bushwhackers. They have crossed paths with many other military families who share their story and their love of Pensacola.

Where To Stay For Spring Break

When looking for a spring break destination on the Gulf Coast, look no further than Perdido Key, Florida. Here at Perdido Key, we are all about the relaxation factor. With over 60% of the Key protected by Federal, (Gulf Islands National Seashore), and State, (Big...

Exploring Military History in Perdido Key

Written for the 2022 Perdido Area Guide By Dayre Lias   "The Lost Key" is one of the unique, historical places in the Florida Panhandle. From the end of the ice age, 12,000 years ago, Paleoindian hunters roamed the area and evolved into the powerful chiefdoms...

How to Make an Impact on Perdido Key

Advocate for your Perdido Key community and help keep our area the best place to live, work and play! Whether your passion is for the environment and protecting the beaches, advocating for local businesses, or volunteering for local causes and events, there are many...

Dining with a View

Enjoying dinner with a view is a simple way of life in Perdido Key. From this lovely barrier island, one can see water in every direction, from the vast wonders of the Gulf of Mexico to the tranquil waters of the Intracoastal Waterway; water views are varied and...

Favorite Live Music Venues in Perdido Key

The Perdido Key Area has a long history of supporting original music and songwriting, making the area a favorite of both amateur and hit-making artists. When visiting the Lost Key, one must-do activity is to enjoy our lively, musical atmosphere while indulging in some...

Best Breakfast in the Perdido Key Area

Here on the Gulf Coast, our locals and dedicated visitors love breakfast! You don’t need to be an early riser to enjoy the best eggs benedict or Bloody Mary’s in Perdido Key; most breakfast in the area is available as a delectable brunch as well!  Whether you can wake...

Best Sunsets on Perdido Key

The Sun is an essential part of our everyday life in Perdido Key.  It keeps our white sandy beaches a sunbather’s dream and provides us with reflective, shimmering beauty atop our emerald, blue-green waters. We cannot help but flood our social media timelines with...

101 Things to Do in Perdido Key

From adventurous water activities to relaxing sunset vibes, explore Perdido Key and plan your island getaway with things to do for everyone! 101 Things to Do in Perdido Key includes links to some of the local's favorite activities, dining, and entertainment in the...

Sunset Weddings Are the Best by Karen Qualls

By Karen Qualls, Beach Bride Weddings You are one of many getting married in 2021 and have been debating the wedding time. Since you are getting married on the beach in Perdido Key, Florida, you should seriously think about the sunset. Why? you ask, why not midday?...

Recreational Boating in the Perdido Key Area

Thinking of renting a boat or bringing your own vessel to explore the ways of the water here in Perdido Key? Then you definitely do not want to miss these boating hot spots in the area! Be sure to pack lots of sunscreen because you will want to enjoy these exclusive...