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Veterans Day

Maricopa Veterans Day planned for Saturday

Mary Abrahams waves at the crowd during last year's Maricopa Veterans Day Parade. She served in the WAVES during World War II. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

At War: Fresh-faced WAVES recruit did her part

Mary Francis Holmes Abrahams during her service 1945-46.

After the United States declared war on Japan in 1941, Mary Francis Holmes Abrahams was just 16. Three years later she talked her girlfriends into joining her in serving their country by signing up for the U.S. Navy WAVES.

They all lived in landlocked Wichita, Kansas. They were all just old enough to sign up – all except Holmes herself, who was still only 19. So, she had to put her enthusiasm on hold for a year before she could qualify for the new Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service in 1945.

“I loved the Navy,” Abrahams said. “We were a whole gang of people. We traveled all over the States and got to know so many people.”

Now 95, she lives part-time in Maricopa. The World War II veteran was a grand marshal in the 2018 parade and will be back this year in her WAVES uniform.

“It doesn’t quite fit the same,” she said.

Formed by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in 1942, WAVES gave women a chance to serve at enlisted and officer levels. One of its recruitment lines was “Release a man to fight at sea.” That, in fact, was its main function, to fill noncombat duties with women so the Navy’s men could be used in combat.

WAVES duties ranged from healthcare to parachute rigger to gunner’s mate. Abrahams was trained in communication. Boot Camp was at Hunter College in New York.

Her teletype training was in Washington, D.C., and she was stationed at a relay station in San Francisco as a 3rd class petty officer.

“It was a great time,” she said.

Base pay was $78 per month. Her work was comprised of re-routing ticker-tape messages.

WAVES in San Francisco (US Navy)

“She had a lot of wonderful experiences,” said her daughter Barbara Adamson of Maricopa, “including the celebrations of V-J Day.”

After the war, at the end of 1945, she married Technician 4th Grade Albert Raymond Abrahams, who was in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Medical Battalion and nine years older.

The couple settled in Arizona, a state Mary Fran had frequented as a child visiting relatives. Her military service paid for her education, and she received her master’s degree from Arizona State University. Three years after marrying, she and Albert started a family, which would eventually include four children.

When the youngest was in school, Abrahams decided to go back to work.

“I took a job in the Tempe School District as a PE teacher,” she said. “I taught there until I retired.”

Mary and friend Emily in uniform. Submitted photo

Daughter Karen Moses, with whom Abrahams lives part-time in Ahwatukee, said her mother was always something of a tomboy and loved sports and teaching sports.

“She played about every sport,” she said. “She even played in a national tourney in basketball for Kansas.”

The military service of their parents did not come up much in family conversations.

“Dad would say, ‘It was something that we felt had to be done,’” Adamson said. “But then we found this box of letters.”

That gave the children a fuller understanding of their WWII experience, as they had frequently corresponded during the last year of the war.

When the American Legion Veterans Day Parade organizers signed her up to ride in a seat of honor last year, Mary Fran Abrahams was grateful for the opportunity.

“It was fun,” she said. “I would wave at everybody.”

American Legion Auxiliary member Caroline Mill. Photo by Kyle Norby

On the Homefront: Oldest auxiliary member helps plan parade

Caroline Mill was already married when the United States entered World War II.

“I married young before he went into the service,” said Mill, now at 98 the oldest member of the American Legion Auxiliary of Post 133 in Maricopa.

The post is planning the third annual Veterans Day Parade, and Mill loves to see a crowd for the local veterans.

“We need more people to come out and give support,” she said.

Mill sustained two veterans in her own way. While her first husband, Virgil Bradbury, joined the U.S. Army, Caroline was a teacher. She finished out the school year before moving with friends near his training camp.

“I never was sorry,” she said. “It was the thing for me to do. It’s the way things were.”

When Virgil was sent into combat in Europe, Caroline described it as “terrible.” She stayed with family for the duration. Virgil participated in the D-Day invasion of France. He was also captured by the Germans.

“He was prisoner of war for Germany, but the camp was in Austria,” she said. “As the war went on the sergeants from Russia came and killed the guards, so they were loose. They could go where they wanted but they couldn’t go back to Germany. So, they walked all the way across Austria, all the way to Russia. When they got there, they wouldn’t let them walk. They put them on a railcar and took them to a ship and sent him home.”

While he was a POW, Caroline received cards from him: “There wasn’t much to write, and they wouldn’t dare to write it anyway.”

When he came home, however, his health was never the same. They moved from Iowa to buy a farm in Wisconsin with a VA loan. They took in two foster daughters. But Virgil was ailing.

“He died fairly young because he had leukemia,” Caroline said. “We always kind of thought it was because he was in prison camp and all they had to eat was cabbage soup. He wasn’t real healthy when he came back.”

Two years after he died, Caroline married Robert Mill, who was also a veteran of D-Day and had been a cook in the service. He brought two daughters into the marriage.

“They are both real good to me,” Caroline said.

She joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Women’s Auxiliary in Wisconsin and later joined the American Legion and stayed with the organization when they moved to Casa Grande. For 10 years, until she stopped driving, she volunteered at Oasis Pavilion caring for elderly less elderly than she.

A lifelong Packers fan, Mill maintains an independent spirit. She was among Legion Auxiliary members who jumped ship from the Casa Grande post to join the women at the Maricopa post. The Maricopa Veterans Day Parade has been a growing venture for the auxiliary.

“I want to see people that are patriotic,” Caroline Mill said. “That’s what we need in this country. The way the country is, we need more people who are patriotic and loyal to their country.”

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa’s second Veterans Day Parade drew a crowd along Bowlin and Porter Roads to honor its many military veterans. The hour-long parade included veteran groups, school organizations and other clubs thanking those who served and showing their patriotic colors.

Central Arizona College hosted its annual Veterans Day Commemoration Tuesday with Julia R. Gusse, a veteran and member of the Maricopa City Council, as keynote speaker. CAC student Timonyeh Shines read a poem, and the Maricopa High School Air Force Junior ROTC presented the colors.

The event also awarded high school and middle school students for their Veterans Day art submissions. In the middle school division, Chloe Adams of Leading Edge place third, Marco Bandin of Leading Edge placed second, Vinnie Fisher of Maricopa Wells Middle School placed first, and Diane Harris of Legacy Traditional received the Artistic Excellence award. In the high school division, Michelle Rodriguez Chavez of Maricopa High School placed third, Katelyn Quigg of MHS was second, Jacquelyn Bui of MHS was first, and Lillian Largo of MHS received the Artistic Excellence award.

Last year's parade was a first-time event. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Michelle Chance


What: Veterans Day Parade
When: Nov. 10 at 9 a.m.
Where: Porter Road
Cost: Free
Info: http://alpost133az.org/Auxiliary.html

It was a morning decorated with patriotism and appreciation for the men and women who served our country.

Veterans from many eras, young and old, participated in Maricopa’s inaugural Veterans Day Parade last November. Many said they are looking forward to doing it again this year on Nov. 10.

Maricopa resident Gary Lee Erickson served from 1969 to 1971 as the cannoneer in a M42 Duster tank in the 6th Calvary, 1st Brigade of the U.S. Army. A member of the local American Legion Post 133 and participant in last year’s parade, Erickson said he was humbled by the support displayed by spectators.

It’s also a way for veterans themselves to pay respect to the nation.

“Marching in the parade is not for glory, but to show our pride in our country and our flag,” Erickson said.

Organizer Gabriela Potter, president of the American Legion Auxiliary of Maricopa Post 133, said she and an array of other volunteers, began organizing and fundraising for this year’s event almost as soon as last year’s ended.

The celebratory event is one that has come together in its first two years entirely by the community, Potter said. Staff from many city departments, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Tortosa Homeowners Association, local veterans’ groups, schools, restaurants and small businesses have contributed their time to the effort.

“We want to thank the community for helping us make it a success last year, and we hope that this year we can do great things to continue this tradition for many years,” Potter said.

The route along Porter Road is much the same, but instead of beginning at Legacy Traditional School, participants will meet just east of the charter school campus at Central Arizona College on Bowlin Road.

The parade will end at Leading Edge Academy, where veterans will again be treated to a complimentary luncheon and performances by schoolchildren.

Veterans will also have free transportation at the beginning of the event from Leading Edge Academy to CAC provided by the city’s COMET service and Totalride.

It’s a labor of love done to promote patriotism and education of our country’s brave soldiers, Potter said.

Veteran Don Sazama served in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1965. The Maricopa resident for the past decade said the city’s first parade made veterans feel very appreciated.

His view from a parade float granted him the view of grateful civilians. “There were a lot of people standing in their yards and waving at us and it made us feel good,” Sazama said.

Besides the common expression of thanking veterans for their services, servicemembers said there are other ways to acknowledge veterans during events like this.

“Civilians honor us just by attending the parade and when the colors pass they should put their hands over their hearts,” said Erickson, the Army veteran.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Jack and Brady McMullen are among Butterfield Elementary students honoring veterans in a personal way.

As Maricopa prepares for its first Veterans Day Parade this weekend, children are learning all about those who served.

Fifth grade student Brady McMullen and his little brother Jack submitted a photo of their great-grandfather William Davis to a project at school that honors veterans.

Davis served during the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

A large wall inside the school is home to a collage of photos and information about students’ family-member veterans.

“They served in war so we could have freedom for our country,” Brady McMullen said.

Jack and Brady never had a chance to meet their great-grandfather, but the veterans wall at their school is helping them learn about him.

Students fill out forms about their family members who are veterans, attach a photo and place it on the wall for the month of November.

“I think it’s important for them to honor veterans,” said Kristin McMullen, fifth grade teacher and mom of Jack and Brady. “These are kids that- they’ve grown up always with our country at war and it’s just important to know the sacrifices that people have made for them.”

The wall shows students their personal connection to history.

“He was stationed in Pearl Harbor when they were bombed by the Japanese and he was sent to, I think it was, South East Asia in the war started to fight,” Brady said.

Kristin McMullen said it’s also a way for some kids to get to know their living veteran family members, an opportunity she didn’t have.

“I personally did it because my grandfather passed away when I was in fourth grade, so I never was given the opportunity to ask him any of the questions and so I just want to make sure that they’re able to talk to their family members and find out something that they did that was pretty great,” McMullen said.

This Saturday, Nov. 11, the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 133 and Veterans Parade Committee are hosting a Veterans Parade starting at 9 a.m. and going from Legacy Traditional School to Leading Edge Academy.

Below is additional information for viewing the parade and/or driving around the area during the parade:

Parade Route: Parade staging will start at 7:30 a.m. at the Legacy Traditional school parking lot.

The parade will start at 9 a.m. at Legacy traditional and ending at Leading Edge Academy.

Road closures from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

  • Porter Road from North Adams Lane to West Bowlin Road
  • Bowlin Road from Porter intersection to Regent Drive/Smith Farms Circle
  • Bowlin Road and North Emma Lane
  • Intersection of N Adams Way and North Falcon Lane

Alternative Roads 

  • White and Parker for residents in the community near Legacy and Central Arizona College
  • Stonegate Rd. and Glennwilde Dr. for residents in Glennwilde Community

Parking areas

  • Sequoia Pathway Academy – open to participants and the public
  • Saddleback Elementary- east side parking lot for disabled guests
  • Central Arizona College – for incoming vehicles from White and Parker
  • Leading Edge Academy- for Veterans attending the Luncheon after parade

Areas to view the Parade
Spectators can enjoy the parade from W. Bowlin both sides of road and both sides of Porter all the way to end of route. Lawn chairs can be set on the sidewalks.

Parade participant’s end
Veterans participating in the parade can turn to Leading Edge Academy’s west side parking lot.

Other vehicles and floats will end at Saddleback Elementary’s north side parking lot on N. Adams Ln.

Emergencies – In case of an emergency please dial 911

Lost and Found – Police Department Volunteers/Police Explorers will have a booth located outside the main door of Leading Edge Academy to help connect lost items or children with their families.

Trash – We would like to remind you to keep our City clean. Please don’t dispose any garbage on the streets, use the trash cans in the designated areas.

Flag Ceremony – The parade will conclude with Flag raising ceremony at Leading Edge Academy led by VFW and Maricopa Police Department. Everyone is invited to attend.

The annual Veterans 5K is at Copper Sky this weekend.

The community will honor its veterans this month with a new parade and a returning 5K fun run.

Years in the making, Maricopa’s first Veterans Day Parade will make its foundational march down Porter Road on Nov. 11.

The parade is organized and sponsored by various community organizations, including American Legion Auxiliary Unit 133, Veterans Parade Committee, Tortosa Home Owners Association, Leading Edge Academy, City of Maricopa, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Maricopa Unified School District, Legacy Traditional School, Sequoia Pathway Academy and Central Arizona College.

Participant registration can be found on the American Legion Auxiliary website at ALPost133AZ.org.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. at Legacy Traditional School, marches north on Porter and concludes at Pacana Park.

Afterward, a free luncheon at Leading Edge Academy will be held for veterans and their families at noon.

“It’s nice to have a parade, but for us it’s nice to honor the veterans for their service, their sacrifice and their families, so it’s really nice when the community is showing support,” said American Legion Auxiliary president and parade organizer Gabriela Potter.

The weekend before the parade, the third annual Veterans 5K run and 1-mile walk will honor military veterans at Copper Sky on Nov. 4.

Early registration is available at Copper Sky Recreation Center and online at ALPost133AZ.org. Registration is $25.

Participants can also register the day of the event at 7 a.m., but organizer Terry Oldfield said registering in advance secures an event T-shirt in the preferred size.

Every veteran who participates in the run receives a medal.

A flag-raising ceremony will take place at 8 a.m. followed by the start of the race 15 minutes later on Copper Sky grounds.

A pancake breakfast will be available during the event and is open to non-participants as well for a suggested $5 donation.

The run is the American Legion’s main fund-raising event of the year, Oldfield said, and helps fund the group’s community projects including Boys State and Girls State, and the sponsorship of American Legion Baseball in the city.

“Everything we earn goes right back to Maricopa,” Oldfield said.

Last year, Potter said, the event welcomed nearly 300 participants. This year Oldfield is hoping for an even bigger show of community support.

“I always hope for better,” Oldfield said.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

From left, Auxiliary members Janice Vitali and Gabriela Potter and Tortosa Lifestyle Director Christine Garcia finalize a design for an event flyer promoting Maricopa’s first Veterans Day Parade. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa will see its inaugural Veterans Day Parade this November.

The route begins 9 a.m. on Nov. 11 at Legacy Traditional school, continues north on Porter Road, and ends near the lake at Pacana Park.

Portions of Porter Road will be closed during the event.

After a flag-raising ceremony, veterans and their families will be treated to a lunch and ceremony inside Leading Edge Academy.

The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 133, Tortosa Home Owners Association, Leading Edge Academy and the City of Maricopa have partnered to organize the event.

Auxiliary Unit Members Gabriela Potter and Janice Vitali said planning efforts began one year ago.

“The city and their departments have been very helpful,” Potter said. “We got with them first to see what we needed to do.”

Aiding in the early planning stages was the city’s Special Events and Marketing Manager Niesha Whitman.

“She kind of guided us with what we needed to do because it has never been operated like this. There were no guidelines, yet,” Potter said.

Maricopa Unified School District, Legacy Traditional School and Sequoia Pathway Academy sponsor the event and will encourage students to participate.

“Part of our mission is to promote patriotism with the schools, and we thought it would be great to have a parade that would be the way to show our respect to them in the community,” Potter said. “And Tortosa has always been really great, doing events for veterans.”

Thursday morning, Potter and Vitali met with Tortosa Lifestyle Director Christine Garcia to finalize details.

Garcia said float entries are encouraged to display patriotism. Members of the planning committee request the focus stay on veterans during the parade by leaving out political messages and business advertisements.

Students, veteran and military organizations, local law enforcement and fire departments are all expected to participate in the parade and ceremony.

Maricopa has historically held various events celebrating Veterans Day. Potter and Garcia agreed the combined effort through multiple organizations in the city is unifying.

“We are wives, daughters and granddaughters of veterans, so our role is to promote the patriotism and to help veterans and educate youth,” Potter said in regards to auxiliary members. “For us, this was the way to bring the community together.”

Registration for the parade is currently under review by the city. InMaricopa will update this story with a link to registration once available.

A silent message to veterans. Photo by Dean Crandall

Legacy Traditional School held a special flag-raising ceremony Thursday to celebrate Veterans Day. Community veterans attended to hear tribute speeches and special music. Maricopa High School Air Force JROTC raised the flag. Check out Dean Crandall’s photos below:

Mayor Christian Price speaks at Leading Edge Academy Veterans Day ceremony.

Leading Edge Academy again paid tribute to veterans with a Thursday ceremony and breakfast attended by community veterans, local firefighters and elected officials. The school choir performed the national anthem and “I’m proud to be an American.” Cadets from the Maricopa High School Air Force JROTC presented the colors.

Leading Edge Academy was red, white and blue Tuesday to celebrate veterans. Photo by Adam Wolfe

Leading Edge Academy in Maricopa hosted a ceremony to honor the city’s veterans Tuesday morning.

Leading Edge welcomed veterans and public officials from the community to the school to partake in a ceremony and breakfast provided by the school.

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu addressed the audience and thanked the community’s veterans for their service. Between the speeches, member of the Leading Edge Youth Choir and Percussion Band performed patriotic songs.

“Why are we here?” Sheriff Babeu asked. “Veterans Day. This is different than Memorial Day. On Memorial Day, we honor and appreciate those who died. Today, we honor and appreciate our veterans, those who have served in the military, some [who] have retired and some who still serve.”

Mayor Price, unlike the other featured speakers, did not serve in the military, but instead found his calling as a public servant. However, his message to the crowd was similar.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line for us,” Price said. “I don’t know if that’s something we often think about. These guys go out and they literally protect our country day in and day out so we have the opportunity to come here and say thank you.”

The final speech came from Air Force Staff Sgt. Lily Gonzales. Her speech regarding what the American flag meant to her offered the crowd some history on the flag, but also outlined its importance to veterans and members of the military still serving.

“Traditionally a symbol of liberty, the American flag has carried a message of freedom and inspired Americans both home and abroad,” Gonzales said. “Since 1776, no generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending freedom.”

As the ceremony concluded, the students were ushered back to their classes and the veterans and parents were treated to a complimentary breakfast.

by -
Maricopa VFW Commander Mike Kemery

By Mike Kemery

Who and what is a veteran? Simply said, a veteran is a person that has experience. At least that is what the dictionary says. So a veteran could be a teacher, a law enforcement officer, a firefighter, a store manager or just about anyone who has been on the job long enough to be experienced.

The week of Nov. 8-14 is Veteran Awareness Week and it deals with the military veteran. The highlight will be on Nov. 11 – Veterans Day. All through the week many tributes will be conducted by our schools, businesses and veterans groups, and they will be in the form of flag-raisings, free breakfasts or dinners, patriotic speeches and parades.

It is a special time for those who served. It is an honor. But where are all the military veterans in Maricopa? In actuality, they are everywhere in the community but, for the most part, nowhere in the community.

Pinal County has over 38,000 veterans. Of those, Maricopa has over 4,500. There are only three Congressionally Chartered Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) within our city, and they are the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion (Am Legion) and the Blue Star Mothers of America. Combined they can only account for a few hundred of these veterans.

There are new groups forming in Maricopa such as VETIT. There are other groups in the area but not located in Maricopa such as the Marine Corps League, Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America, to name a few. But again, and even with all the groups numbers, still only a few hundred can be accounted for. The new citywide census expects the veterans’ numbers to grow.

But who and where are these missing thousands?

It would be great to see large crowds of veterans at all the events this year. It would also be great to have these veterans as members to give strength in number to combat many of the problems that plague the veteran community.

It would strengthen the local veteran-supported programs such as the Voice of Democracy and Patriot Pen Essay contests in the Middle Schools and High School, the Boy’s and Girl’s State programs, the Public Servant Recognition programs for Law Enforcement, Firefighters, and Emergency Medical Technicians, and the Teacher of the Year.

The citizens of Maricopa, City Hall headed by Mayor Christian Price, and the Police Department led by Chief Steve Stahl have always supported the veterans and would like to do more. This is great, but veterans need to take care of our veteran community as well. I challenge all veterans, and all citizens, to be at the flag-raising on Nov. 11 at 8 a.m. at the Maricopa Veterans Center. It would be great to have a parking problem and, as Chief Stahl would say, “that would be a good thing.”

Mike Kemery is commander of VFW Post 12043.

Former Marine Paul Gleason visited his son’s class at Saddleback Elementary as the children learned about veterans and Veterans Day.

He shared some of his experience in the service, places he served overseas and how he was injured.

Afterward, the students in Kathy Fuentes class created thank-you notes to be posted on the bulletin board.

Leading Edge Academy Youth Choir rehearses for a Veterans Day program, planned for Nov. 10.

Leading Edge Academy presents a special Veterans Day salute on Nov. 10.

War veterans and local dignitaries have been invited. There will be assemblies at 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

Besides being treated to patriotic music, veterans and their families have been invited to breakfast.

“These guys are ambassadors for our school,” Principal Mat Reese said the choir. “And they’re all terrific kids. You just can’t say enough about them.”

The Leading Edge Youth Choir consists of students in third through fifth grade, under the direction of Denise Frietas.

“She does a phenomenal job and now we’re appearing in four or five functions with the city and everything else, so it’s been a very positive experience,” Reese said.

Leading Edge Academy is at 18700 N. Porter Road. Call 520-568-7800.