Tags Articles tagged with "Veteran"


Brett Zimmerman prepares for training in Rancho El Dorado.


Navy veteran Lt. Brett Zimmerman left Hawaii and sold most of his belongings after his time in the military last year.

It was his goal to live a simpler life, one without clutter to anchor him.

“Life’s too short and I realized that when I was in the Navy and on a submarine — sometimes it gets pretty dark,” said the 30-year-old North Dakota native. “You’re under water for months at a time and you look back and think what am I doing? And what do I want to do with my life?”

The answer to that question soon became clear.

Zimmerman is an avid cyclist, runner and swimmer. Since his senior year at Oregon State University, he’s found freedom in triathlon races.

“I’ve found something that I love wholeheartedly, and I just want to go out there and do the best that I possibly can,” Zimmerman said.

It’s his goal to become a professional triathlete.

Zimmerman’s family winters in Maricopa every year. He spent the better part of this season strength-training and swimming at Copper Sky as well as cycling and running in Rancho El Dorado.

He’s also been modifying a 2005 Dodge Sprinter for a life-changing road trip.

The tour will feature stops in the Midwest and as far as the East Coast as Zimmerman chases down his dream.

The ambition was first born from his late coach Jason Kilderry, who passed away last year.

“I wanted to find a purpose and a meaning in life and he just said, ‘You have an opportunity right now to go out there and just take life by the horns,’” Zimmerman said Kilderry told him.

To live minimally, he enlisted the help of his father Rodney and their neighbor Jim Pfeifle to transform the van into a home-on-wheels.

“It’s gratifying,” said Pfeifle, who worked in construction and contributed much of the woodwork to the van’s interior.

The van is DC-powered with running water, a small refrigerator, a propane stove, a full-size bed and a composting toilet.

‘Ruby’ the van – named after Zimmerman’s July birthstone – will transport the triathlete through at least November when his last race of the year takes place in Miami.

If Zimmerman goes pro, he will travel abroad to races in Europe.

“I’m really excited about what’s about to happen it’s going to be a wild couple of years,” Zimmerman said.

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Wally Brown uses his backhoe to help his neighbors in the Thunderbird Farms area. He is 93 years old and a veteran of World War II. Photo by Michelle Chance

Wallace Brown, 93, flew a P-51 Mustang as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II.

“I’ve seen most everything. I’ve done most everything. I’ve reached the speed of sound,” he said, reminiscing inside his home in Thunderbird Farms.

“I just accept things as they come along, that’s the way life is. Take it, embrace it.” — Wallace Brown

One of seven children, Brown was born in Alabama in 1923 with dreams of soaring the sky. He entered basic training in 1943 and eventually earned his wings and commission as an officer.

Brown’s time in the service ended in 1945 when the war concluded. The veteran’s experiences in the air did not come without sacrifice, however.

While participating in an advanced training exercise at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix in 1944, Brown’s plane crashed after a mid-air collision with another aircraft that was attempting to get back in formation.

Aided by his training and his parachute, Brown floated safely to the ground.

“When you are up in the sky and you are out on your own, everything falls at the same rate of speed. Your body, pieces of metal — I could have picked it up and put it in my pocket, see,” Brown said.

He found out not long after landing the man in the other plane had died in the explosive accident.

That man was Brown’s friend, Robert “Bobby” Boyles.

Brown, prompted by the death of his friend, wrote to Boyles’ parents in Illinois after the crash, but was asked to cease his communication with them.

“I didn’t write back anymore. I didn’t stop by. I wanted to go visit his folks, but I wouldn’t do it. He was a pretty good guy, I liked him,” Brown said.

The parachute that saved Brown hangs framed in his living room wall. It is a testament to his survival, and to the memory of the day he lost his friend.

After the military, Brown opened his own business and eventually made his way to Maricopa, where his company installed large water tanks.

In 1975, he bought property in Thunderbird Farms and made his home there years later.

Brown is now retired from work and from flight, but the former fighter pilot hasn’t lost much speed: He operates heavy machinery like his backhoe, rides his ATV and lives independently.

Brown said he has been able to keep an active lifestyle because of his military training.

“It all goes back to the Air Force and the cadet training — they teach you discipline. You just don’t do things that aren’t right. You do things that are right,” Brown said.

The local hero attributes his long life to helping others and to doing the right thing.

“I just accept things as they come along, that’s the way life is. Take it, embrace it. If you can discard something you don’t want, do it. If you take it, go with it, that’s what makes you feel good. That’s what keeps you young,” he said.

Lorraine Morrison, a retired chief warrant officer, relaxes at Bead & Berry Coffee House. She served in the U.S. military for more than 30 years. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Age:  57
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Maricopa residence: Tortosa
Pets: One cat and one dog
Hobbies:  Plinking
Greatest talent: The ability to juggle cotton balls in a haboob *laughing*! The only great talent I may possess is that I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. I am not concerned with what people feel, only with what they believe. I don’t care what people think, I’m interested in what they know.
Age of enlistment: Can’t remember; some time in my 20s.
Years in military: 30 years, 1 month, 23 days
Highest rank: Chief Warrant Officer

Why did you join the military? Fifty-two Americans had been taken hostage in Iran, so it was my duty to serve my country just as so many members of my family before me had done.

Where did you serve? Primarily in the United States and Asia.

What brought you to Maricopa? Its geographical location (between Phoenix and Tucson).

What military experience had the biggest impact on your life? Burying my fiancé at West Point in the autumn of 2010.

What was the most notable act of heroism you witnessed? There are numerous incidents I have witnessed throughout my 30 years of combined military service, but on a more personal note, it was my having saved a fellow service member from bleeding out.

What were some challenges you faced entering civilian life? Upon retiring I lost my support group of brothers and sisters, which seemed like taking point without my platoon behind me. Another challenge was attempting to effectively communicate with civilians.

What was the best advice you received during your time in the military? Back in 1979 my granddaddy advised me to, “Keep your eyes and ears open, your mouth shut, your nose clean, your head down and your butt covered.” His words have proven to be great advice in several types of environments.

What is your proudest moment? On a global scale there are so many incidents, but on a personal scale it would have been earning my commission at more than 50 years of age.

What is the one thing you would like civilians to know about the U.S. military? The military (and first responders) are not some strange entity created to frighten civilians. No, quite the contrary. We are just like every other American. The military is a cross-section, microcosm of American society; we are your first and last resort, but what sets us apart from civilians is that we have vowed to protect/defend those who are not as strong (de oppresso libre). We love our country and our American way of life, and when called upon we will defend all that it encompasses.

This story was published in the Fall Edition of InMaricopa the Magazine.