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Vietnam

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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Clarence "Golde" Golden and Dennis Summerfield speak to students at Desert Wind Middle School. Submitted photo

May 5, two local Vietnam veterans took time out of their day to visit the Desert Wind Blended Learning class to discuss their time serving in the military and in the Vietnam War.

Clarence “Golde” Golden and Dennis Summerfield, both of Maricopa, spent two hours talking to the 71 students in DWMS Blended Learning about the war, about their experiences, and what their jobs were in the war. The students were a captive audience as they spoke of what they encountered, who they met while in Vietnam, their jobs, and how they felt about the war.

“I feel like I got a better idea of the Vietnam War listening to their stories,” said eighth grader Parker H.

“It was interesting knowing how they lived and what they did each day in Vietnam,” explained Matt W.

Students learned about Golde running the rivers in South Vietnam on a 72-foot assault craft with 10,000 gallons of jet fuel, how he slept on a cot with a 2-inch thick mattress and once woke up to a rat nestled up on his chest.

Students also learned about Dennis’ time in the Navy on a ship in the Gulf of Tonkin in North Vietnam as an electrician supporting ground troops and detonating floating mines while sometimes out at sea for 30 days at a time. This was the second time that Golde came and spoke with the class, and this was the first time that Dennis had visited.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

“Our students are developing a great relationship with some of our local veterans, when they see these gentlemen out in the city it is nice to hear that our students will go up to them and thank them and tell their parents about what they learned in class from these men,” said Shannon Hull, Blended Learning instructor

During the questioning time of the visit, students were mostly concerned about how they felt during the war, what their day was like, what food did they eat, what they missed the most.  But the most common questions were about how these men were treated when they got back from Vietnam.

Golde said, “I’ve gotten more respect from you kids, your parents and the city of Maricopa than I’ve ever gotten anywhere in the U.S.” after telling stories of the disrespect and insults he received when he got back from Vietnam.

When asked what kids can do now, Dennis said to “never stop honoring our fallen soldiers,” Golde reminded us of POWs, “those men that were never released and still have not been found.” But the most important thing students need to do is to “give and show respect for our flag and for each other.”

“We are grateful to the Maricopa chapter of the VFW for giving us their time, by coming in and talking to our students,” Hull said. “It helps the students better understand what the war was really like and how to try to understand the political and social ramifications of war on today’s society.”

“I appreciate the brave souls that you are, and I thank you for speaking with us today.  I now have a better understanding of the world we live in,” said eighth grade student Savannah S.

Anyone interested in the local VFW chapter please contact Commander Mike Kemery and visit the site: http://maricopavfw.blogspot.com/

Submitted photo
Submitted photo