Joe Abodeely owns 20 acres west of Mraicopa where he has "base camp" for Vietnam veterans. He will be the Maricopa Historical Society's guest speaker in November, talking about the military history of Maricopa Wells. Photo by Mason Callejas

Located down a winding, county road and bunkered beneath a small mountain in Thunderbird Farms is a hidden haven for Vietnam veterans.

IF YOU GO
What: Maricopa Historical Society Presentation
Who: Col. Joseph Abodeely (Ret.)
When: Nov. 6, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road
How much: Free
Info: Contact@MHS50.com

Col. Joseph Abodeely has opened his “base camp” to fellow Vietnam vets for nearly two decades. The 20-acre property features a shooting range, a cantina and a 35-foot guard tower.

It’s also where Abodeely calls home.

Every April, as many as 250 people pitch tents and stay a week camping, shooting and sharing a bond that Abodeely said only they understand about each other.

“You can’t hang around with the guys (you work with) because they didn’t know what it meant to go out on patrols at night, to get shot at, to see guys die around you, to smell the sweet stench of burnt bodies from napalm, to see people’s brains lying on the ground – they don’t know that. They don’t know what it’s like to see grown men terrified,” Abodeely said.

The gathering every spring is an opportunity to visit those who have been there.

“When you come to base camp for the Vietnam veterans, they can be around other guys who knew. It’s a brotherhood, it’s a comradery,” Abodeely said.

Abodeely served in Vietnam as a combat infantry unit commander during the Tet Offensive of 1968. He retired from the military in 1995.

Between those years, Abodeely joined the Arizona National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve and worked as a deputy Maricopa County Attorney and later as a criminal defense attorney.

He founded the Arizona Military Museum in Phoenix in 1980.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Out of all his achievements, honoring his brethren in Vietnam is what he is most proud of.

“Vietnam veterans have not gotten their dues. When people talk about wars, they always talk about all of the wars except Vietnam – in a negative way,” Abodeely said

To Abodeely, one of the more somber recognition efforts is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., which lists the names of U.S. soldiers who died in the war.

“The wall is a gigantic tombstone. The only reason it was accepted at the time is because it was the only thing anyone would do to recognize the fact that Vietnam veterans were in Vietnam. So, you could talk about those who died, but what about those who lived?” Abodeely asked.

Abodeely has organized an event to honor living Vietnam vets since 2011.

On Oct. 28, the seventh annual Commemoration of the Vietnam War honored Vietnam, Vietnam-era and Vietnamese veterans at Elements Event Center.

“We came home and we were treated like criminals and that was wrong and that’s why I do what I do. That’s why we are having this dinner,” Abodeely said.

As CEO of the military museum, Abodeely brings with him a wealth of regional wartime knowledge.

On Nov. 6 at the Maricopa Public Library, he will discuss the origin of the Arizona National Guard and historical, military activities at Maricopa Wells.

His work at the museum highlights all branches of the military spanning every U.S. war. However, his main undertaking is promoting the achievements of Vietnam vets who he said are still misunderstood.

“I’m 74. I don’t know how long I’m going to live, but until the day I die I’m going to do what I can to help set the record straight about the honorable service of Vietnam veterans,” Abodeely said. “That’s my mission in life.”


This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

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