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Memorial Day

Kimberly Mask, recently promoted from eighth grade at Desert Wind Middle School, designed the memorial at Maricopa Veterans Center. Submitted photo

During the flag raising ceremony at the Maricopa Veteran’s Center on Monday (Memorial Day), the Desert Wind Middle School Blended Learning Memorial created by Shannon Hull’s eighth-grade social studies class was dedicated.

Hull’s class began the process of designing this memorial after an October visit from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) member Clarence “Golde” Golden. Golden said he had a project for the students, to take an existing wall and create something for the Veteran’s Center.

In a few weeks, each student had designed a memorial. The chosen design came from eighth grade student Kimberly Mask. Kimberly envisioned the poem “In Flanders Fields” written on the wall surrounded by red poppies and framed on the ground in brick. Hull started a GoFundMe.com page to raise money to create Kim’s vision. A total of $730.40 was raised and utilized on this lasting memorial for the Maricopa community.

The project finally came to fruition on Memorial Day when the memorial was presented by Mike Kemery of the VFW to the crowd at the flag-raising at the Maricopa Veteran’s Center.

Kimberly is an honors student, an avid artist and an asset to our city and our schools. She will begin her studies at Maricopa High School this fall, being accepted into the AP Art class, which is a rarity among freshmen.

Hull’s class has a long-standing relationship with members of the VFW — they regularly come in to speak with Desert Wind Blended Learning students throughout the year, and the class just recently had a clean-up and landscaping day at the Veteran’s Center. The Desert Wind Middle School Blended Learning students’ next goal for the Center is to bring in gravel and a few new trees to help further beautify the grounds of the Veteran’s Center.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa veterans and the police department combined efforts Monday morning to mark Memorial Day and pay tribute to military personnel and police officers who have died in the line of duty. VFW Commander Denis Sommerfield, MPD Chief Steve Stahl and Maricopa High School AFJROTC instructor Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey were speakers between the raising of the flag and laying of the wreaths. The JROTC and MPD Explorers participated in the ceremony at the police substation at Copper Sky. Blue Star Mom Vero Sanchez, whose son is in the Air Force, brought a photo of her late brother-in-law Staff Sgt. Michael Sanchez, who died 17 years ago.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Memorial Day Ceremony in Maricopa is making adjustments, both in venue and in tribute.

The annual event is usually held at the Veterans Center on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. However, this year the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12043 will partner with the Maricopa Police Department to host the commemoration at the Copper Sky Police Substation at 17985 N. Greythorn Drive.

The reason?

The event will not only honor soldiers who lost their lives in active military service, but it will also recognize the lives of fallen first responders.

As tradition goes, leaders of the VFW and American Legion Post 133 will perform a wreath-laying ceremony for veterans. New this year will be an additional wreath laid by Maricopa Police Department’s Chief Steve Stahl, which will commemorate peace officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

VFW Past Commander Mike Kemery said it was natural to combine the tribute because “we are basically brothers in arms,” he said of veterans and first responders.

Kemery said the ceremony will be brief and an ideal way for residents to begin the holiday morning.

“It’s maybe a half-hour out of their day and then they can go barbecue, swim in the pool, go to the lake or do whatever they want,” Kemery said. “But at least pay their respects first because these are dangerous times.”

The event will begin at 9 a.m. with a flag raising ceremony. Various speakers, the Maricopa High School Air Force JrROTC Color Guard and the MPD Explorers will also participate in the event.

Additionally, a static display of military vehicles will be on site for community members to view during the ceremony.

Kemery said resident attendance not only pays tribute to those who lost their lives, but also to those who love them.

“It’s a show of support and a show of respect to those who have lost their loved ones,” he said. 

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12043 hosted a Memorial Day ceremony at the Maricopa Veterans Center on Monday. Speakers included Sheriff Paul Babeu and Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, the new leader of the Air Force Jr. ROTC program at Maricopa High School.

It was the last post event to be conducted by Mike Kemery, who is stepping down as commander. Denis Sommerfield was elected to lead the post. Also at the program, retired Col. Charles Millar brought in military vehicles, and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office brought in a Vietnam War-era helicopter.

The Leading Edge Chorus performed patriotic songs, and the Maricopa High School Air Force JrROTC Color Guard raised the American and POW/MIA flags.