Mike Myatt is a retired Marine Corps major general and the chairman of this year’s Fleet Week, which runs Thursday through Sunday. The annual event, headlined by the Navy’s Blue Angels, draws 1 million people to The City’s waterfront. Myatt is also president and chief executive officer of Marines’ Memorial Association in San Francisco.
Who had the biggest influence on you in your life?
My high school teachers. They genuinely cared about me and my classmates. My regret is that I waited too late to tell them how much I appreciate what they did for us.
Where do you find inspiration?
Early in my life, it was my high school football coach. He taught that “brain can defeat brawn.” This was after I tried to run over someone much bigger than me on the football field. In my Marine Corps career, Gen. Al Gray was a mentor. We met when he was a major and I was a captain. He taught me the importance of lifelong learning. In the more recent years, I find inspiration from my wife, Wendy Lee. She’s helped me with my relationships with my daughters.
How did you come to have a career in the military?
My Sunday school teacher when I was young was a Marine. Fought in World War II. When the Korean War started, he was recalled to active duty to fight in Korea. He left suddenly and never came back. I always wanted to be a Marine like him.
What has been one highlight of your career?
Commanding the 1st Marine Division in the first Gulf War. My division of 22,000 Marines defeated seven Iraqi divisions and liberated Kuwait City.
In January, Mayor Gavin Newsom asked you to be the chair of Fleet Week. What do your responsibilities include?
First was to request the Navy and Marine Corps increase their commitments to support San Francisco Fleet Week. Both services have done so. Last year, we had one ship with six Marines embarked. This year, we have six ships with more than 700 Marines. We have scheduled a softball tournament with sailors, Marines, policemen and firemen competing. We have a band challenge with high school bands and a Marine band playing at Kezar Stadium. We have Marine Band concerts in multiple locations in The City.
What do you say to the people who say the Blue Angels are too loud and disruptive?
I don’t agree. In my view, the loudest and most disruptive events I’ve encountered in San Francisco are the sounds of the sirens of the first responders rushing to save lives. I have learned to plug my ears with my fingers when they drive by, thankful, though, that we have them to help when required. I feel the same way about the Blue Angels. I plug my ears, and I’m thankful we have such talent and equipment when required.
If you weren’t in your current career, what would you be doing?
I’m currently leading the Marines’ Memorial Association, a veterans’ organization. I’m able to visit with the marvelous youth serving in the military today. I’m not sure what I would be doing now if I didn’t have my current position. I just feel blessed to be where I am.