Maricopa’s VFW Post hosted a brief flag-raising ceremony Thursday morning for Independence Day. Ray Propst, Bruce Boenning and David Hixon raised the stars-and-stripes, and Kirk Lane delivered a message of freedom at the Maricopa Veterans Center.
When Alex Beckley was killed in a single-vehicle crash on State Route 347 on May 31, he left behind a hole in the hearts of those who loved him.
Brenda Severs, also injured in the incident, was left to pull together the pieces. Uncertain what to do with the home they shared in the Lakes subdivision, she also saw a problem that added to her burden.
Alex had left behind a large hole in the backyard.
Severs said they had been planning to put in a pond as Alex settled into his new job at Compass Airlines, where he worked as a storage and material clerk under Bryan Moore. The freshly minted commander of American Legion Post 133, Moore rallied his fellow veterans and area businesses to lend a hand and get the yard back in shape.
Wildcat Landscaping of Maricopa donated the landscaping rock. Plants were donated by Leaf & Feather south of Maricopa. Pots and potting soil were donated by Home Depot in Chandler.
Moore put the word out to the American Legion and posted on the Maricopa Veterans Facebook page seeking volunteers, and more than a dozen veterans along with Compass employees and Rent-A-Vet showed up Saturday morning to shovel and rake.
Maricopa Veterans is a closed group on Facebook that was founded in 2018 with the intent of helping others, and it has grown to about 340 members.
“We’re really expanding. We’re really growing and we’re trying to do a lot of things,” Moore said.
They have helped an older veteran pack up and move to Washington. They have helped shape up the front yard of a Maricopa dad battling cancer. They have helped others move furniture.
The group’s motto is Semper Simul (Always Family). It is veterans helping veterans and the community at large. The group’s description states, “We are committed to continuing the spirit of service that was engrained in us from our time in the service.” Members must affirm they are veterans by answering membership questions before they are allowed into the group.
“When we have a veteran that’s in need, we jump in,” Moore said. “And that extends to their family.”
Investigators believe a blown tire caused the accident that took Beckley’s life.
Severs said she had been with Beckley six years, since they worked together at a JC Penney home store. Losing him has left her in a quandary over whether to stay or move.
“We’re still debating. We don’t know,” she said. “It’s hard because my two daughters, one is in Florida and one is in Vegas. So, then my work is in Ahwatukee, and driving back and forth, I’m a little bit skeptical about driving so far.”
With so much in her life up in the air, she’s found a rock of support among the veterans.
“Alex is no longer with us,” Moore said, “so now we’re going to try to take care of his family. That’s what we’re doing.”
American Legion Post 133 in Maricopa marked the 100th anniversary of the post-World War I founding of the American Legion with a flag-raising, food and displays at the Maricopa Veterans Center on Saturday. Col. Chuck Millar, the Hidden Valley Fire Department and Maricopa Fire/Medical Department had vehicles on display, and there was a bounce house for the kids. The first American Legion caucus was March 15-17, 1919, in Paris, France, and a charter was granted by the U.S. Congress in September. Today the Legion has more than 2 million members in 13,000 posts.
Honoring those who have fallen has been a long tradition of the American Legion.
“Back where I came from, we had an Honor Guard. We performed a lot of functions – especially funerals.” — Larry Crane, American Legion Honor Guard
About a year ago, members of American Legion Bernie G. Crouse Post #133 formed an Honor Guard to post colors and honor those veterans who have died.
“We’re new,” said Larry Crane, American Legion member and organizer of the Maricopa Honor Guard. “I am really the one who initiated this; that’s why I was put in charge of it. I came here from Iowa and I’ve been a Legion member for 53 years. Back where I came from, we had an Honor Guard. We performed a lot of functions – especially funerals.”
Crane said he brought up the idea at a Legion meeting.
“We got our rifles and ammo for nothing,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of members that are going to be passing away and we really need to have a group to honor them. I know a couple of the guys were a little hesitant.”
After asking for a show of hands on who would be interested in being on the Honor Guard, about a dozen volunteered.
“Right now, I think we have 16 or 17 (Honor Guard members) but we still try to recruit more,” Crane said. “Everybody can’t be here every time. My goal is to get some of the younger guys to take over. I’d just as soon be a follower. The more young guys we get, the more we will get. Then, they won’t think they’re joining a bunch of old guys.”
The Maricopa Honor Guard has presented the Colors at softball and baseball games, Cub Scout meetings and the city’s Fourth of July celebration as well as performing Honors at celebration of life ceremonies and funerals. They are prepared to include a full 21-gun salute at funerals or special ceremonies.
“We did one funeral ceremony up in Phoenix for one of our members whose father-in-law passed away. We have done several other flag presentations. Most Legions, of any size, have an Honor Guard. Honor Guards instill patriotism in our youth,” Crane said, adding that 2019 is the 100th anniversary of the American Legion.
The Honor Guard has already become an important part of Maricopa’s Legion Post.
“The Honor Guard shows that we (Post #133) are active in the community. It allows us to have a military presence in the community and to honor those individuals connected with military,” said Post Commander Derek Jeske.
Jeske said the Maricopa post has a growing younger membership as about 40 percent of the members are under 50 years old.
Maricopa’s post was chartered in 2009 and welcomes veterans from all branches of the armed forces. Its main goal is to support veterans, veterans’ families and local youth programs.
Post #133 supports or sponsors two American Legion Baseball teams, the American Legion Law Enforcement Career Academy, a boys state program, Copa Crush girls softball team, Cub Scout Troop #997, Boy Scout Troop #993 and Venture Crew #2993.
The Maricopa American Legion Auxiliary is very active in the community and also supports a Girl Scout
This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.
For nearly nine years, U.S. servicemembers stationed around the world have been receiving packages from Maricopa.
The Letters to Soldiers Club sends cards, letters and care boxes to deployed troops, most of whom are strangers. It all started as an after-school project.
“Back in 2010 I kind of created the opportunity to send support to the troops,” said LTS founder and Villages resident Heather Blakely. “At my son’s school [Legacy], we would get together about once a week during the school year and write cards and letters.”
The project evolved as the school conducted donation drives, and soon care packages were being assembled. Letters to Soldiers became a year-round activity.
“I have a couple of organizations online that I’ve known for years. They usually provide the names,” Blakely said. “Some of them are family and friends. At some of the vendor events here in town, I’ve been able to connect with a couple wives whose husbands are currently deployed, so it’s nice to represent the locals.”
The organization achieved its nonprofit status in 2018. To do so, it needed a board. Blakely reached out to one of her former tennis student, Alicia Hills, and to Robin Bennett, who had allowed LTS to bring its cards to Maricopa Community Church as part of a crafts project.
Hills’ father and grandparents were in the military. “It’s always something that’s held a high value, very honorable to me,” she said. “I have cousins that are in the military as well. I just think if I were in their shoes and in a foreign country, it would be nice to have those comforts of home and the assurance that people are thinking of you.”
Bennett, too, has had family in the military, and her son was a military contractor in Kuwait.
“He told me when a box came, even his box came where the soldiers got their boxes, and they are all over those boxes,” she said. “It’s just a piece of home.”
Blakely said becoming a nonprofit opened opportunities to gain more fundraising avenues and grants.
“And it gives it some legitimacy to what you’re doing because they know that you have to go through checks and balances on the other side,” Hills said.
“Otherwise, it comes out of her pocket,” Bennett said.
With a goal of shipping 20 packages a month, LTS also seeks more local businesses and organizations as sponsors. A large box costs $18.45 just for shipping. The group attends many vendor events in town, including Salsa Fest and Merry Copa, to gain sponsors and collect donations.
“And that’s something we want to do more of,” Hills said, “through getting our name out in the public to the community and letting people know, ‘Hey, we’re here to support your deployed loved one.’”
The website LettersToSoldiersClub.com includes a list of most-requested items on its contact page. Those include baby wipes, baby powder and beef jerky. Western Kentucky University even donated small towels. Last year, LTS sent out 106 care packages to service members.
For Halloween, the club hosted “Treats for Troops” with dentist Karen Kramarczyk offering a $1-per-pound buyback of donated excess candy. During Veterans Day weekend, a box-packing event at Blakely’s house finished with 40 packages.
The club partners with the Casa Grande school district and has groups within Maricopa schools participating. The Maricopa High School National Honor Society has provided letters to soldiers and some boxes.
While the club does not release the names of service members for operations security, it wants to build up its list of troop members. Blakely said they want to have that on the website by the end of the year, “so they can contact us, and we can get their names out to those who want to support.”
Besides those deployed, the club wants to reach out to Maricopa’s service members who still may be stateside. They sent packages to both Maricopans currently at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Hills said LTS supports veterans through the Tucson Honor Flight Program and has a soft-spot for K9 military working dogs and their handlers.
“The postal service, on an APO address, gives you a $2 discount on the large size,” Bennett said. “That’s a nice thing for the postal system to do.”
“Generally, if you send to one service member, they share with about five,” Blakely said. “So, the larger the better, so there’s more to share.”
How to participate
Add your deployed Marine, Airman, Soldier or Sailor to the LTS Club beneficiary list at LettersToSoldiersClub@gmail.com
This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.
A Pinal County chapter of Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association is revving motors for the second John Wayne Poker Run on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway on Saturday.
The event starts with registration at 9 a.m. at the Dunkin Donuts, 1306 E. Florence Blvd. in Casa Grande, followed by kickstands up at 10 a.m. The event is a fundraiser for homeless vets, at-risk vets and suicide prevention, CVMA member Rhiannon Williams said.
“Most of the stops will be in Maricopa,” she said. Though the chapter is based in Casa Grande, “there’s a decent group of us in Maricopa.”
CVMA, a 501(c)19 organization, expects to rally at the New HQ at around 10:45 a.m. Then it’s onto Raceway at 11:45 a.m. The itinerary brings them to Cowtown at 12:45 p.m. and then to Eva’s, 665 N. Pinal Ave. in Casa Grande around 1:45 p.m. There, they will hand out awards and hold a 50/50 raffle.
Riders draw a poker card at each location, and the one who has the best hand at the end of the run is a winner.
Cost to participate in the poker run is $15 per rider and $5 per passenger. Williams said those who are not motorcyclists are invited to participate in the raffle.
The poker run is also a way for the CVMA chapter, founded in 2017, to interact with the public and spread the word about the organization.
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.
By Michelle Chance
It was a morning decorated with patriotism and appreciation for the men and women who served our country.
IF YOU GO
What: Veterans Day Parade
When: Nov. 10 at 9 a.m.
Where: Porter Road
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.
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.
Firefighters in Maricopa Fire/Medical Department’s Ladder 571 assisted local veterans April 10 with a very tall order. John Anderson, director of American Legion Riders Bernie G. Crouse Post 133, said firefighters replaced a worn cable that anchors the American flag to a pole outside the center. Old Glory is the centerpiece for numerous flag-raising ceremonies at the vet center every year. The next is scheduled for May 1.
Maricopa’s first Veterans Day Parade had 60 entries Saturday, with groups of veterans, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, classic cars, student groups, families of veterans and the MHS Marching Rams. With four grand marshals from World War II and the Korean War, the parade traveled from Legacy Traditional School on Regent Drive to Leading Edge Academy on Porter Road. Maricopans lined much of the route, sitting in chairs, on curbs and on walls to show their support of the veterans.
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.
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.
By Dayv Morgan
At about 50,000 people, the city of Maricopa is significantly smaller than Maricopa County, which boats a population of 4.2 million.
Despite our small-town feel, Maricopa does almost double the ratio of VA home loans over the Maricopa County housing market.
Between January and September, VA loans made up 12.4 percent of the loans for closed home sales in the city. Maricopa County’s VA loan figure was 6.9 percent over the same period.
Because VA home loans require veterans to occupy the homes they purchase, it could safely be assumed we have a very patriotic city with twice as many veterans and active duty servicemembers purchasing homes per capita as the Phoenix area.
There are many benefits for those who qualify for a VA loan. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, generally there is often no down payment unless required by the lender, no private mortgage insurance, no credit score requirement and VA loans can also be used to refinance an existing home.
Veterans and active duty servicemembers who meet certain length-of-service requirements are usually eligible for a VA loan, along with other certain groups of individuals. To learn if you are eligible, call the VA at 1-877-827-3702.
Dayv Morgan, HomeSmart Success
This column appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.
Three signs near the entrance of the local Veterans Center recognize the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12043 and its efforts to serve the community.
In July, the post accepted a plaque for its third “National Outstanding Community Service Post” award since 2013 at the VFW National Convention in Louisiana.
“There is not another post in the state that has three (of these awards),” said past Post Commander Mike Kemery, who led the post during its second go-round winning the award the previous year.
The award measures the post’s community service during the year. Past Post Commander Denis Sommerfield accepted a sign for the award in October during a district meeting in Casa Grande.
The post achieved the accolades thanks to “help from the comrades in the post doing their community service like our service officer helping our vets, participating with the City of Maricopa, JROTC at Maricopa High, Boy Scouts” and other volunteer work with student and youth groups, Sommerfield said.
The Maricopa VFW post is small relative to others, Kemery said, with a membership of just over 150 veterans. About 20 percent of its membership attends meetings.
“We’ve been doing very good because we don’t have a bar and we don’t have anything to distract us to where we are primarily a service post and it’s starting to show,” Kemery said.
Although a lot of the work is done behind the scenes, post leaders said the real reward is the feedback from the community members and veterans they help.
“Until you do it the first time, and see those looks, and see that reaction, it changes you real quick,” Kemery said.
This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.
A patriotic display of vintage military vehicles will march through Maricopa while honoring veterans on Nov. 12.
The route for the third annual Veterans Day Military Motor March begins 9:30 a.m. at the Millar Airport in Thunderbird Farms, continues east on Farrell Road, turns north on State Route 347, and finishes for a meet-and-greet with veterans and their vehicles at the Bashas’ parking lot.
Families are encouraged to attend.
“It teaches kids some of the history, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Mike Kerr, motor march organizer and curator of Col. Charles Millar’s Vietnam Aviation Veterans of Arizona Museum.
Last year, Kerr said the march included 10 military vehicles, motorcyclists and “people who follow along with American flags on their cars.”
Military vehicles featured in this year’s event include a half-track, military helicopter, 1942 American staff car, military jeeps, a 1940s-era military fire truck, and other military vehicles of various kinds, Kerr said.
After the meet-and-greet concludes, usually 45 minutes after arrival, the convoy returns to Millar Airport along the same route.
“We go back to the airport and Millar fixes everybody lunch,” Kerr said of the motor march crew. “It’s a fun time for everybody.”
This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.
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
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.
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.
A Glassy Outfit
A military background and a glass background brought John and Julie Turcott together. The two veterans have owned Lizard Heights Glass for a dozen years. John came up through the ranks in installing home and auto glass for other companies before striking out on his own. Julie managed maintenance at a glass-tempering facility.
John & Julie Turcott (spouses)
Business: Lizard Heights Glass, LLC
John: U.S. Marine Corps, platoon sergeant, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, Desert Storm vet, combat engineer, bulk fuel specialist
Julie: U.S. Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class electronics technician (some sea duty, some shore duty)
Years in business: 12
Nature of the business: Auto glass and licensed glazing contractor (glass installation for home and business)
Family: Two awesome kids, Jaylie and JJ
John: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Julie: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Residence: Thunderbird Farms, aka rural Maricopa
Why did you join the military?
John: Freedom is not free. I won the lottery by being born in the greatest country in human history. I joined the Marines to defend all this country has to offer.
Julie: Ditto – but I was a little less “defend the country” and a lot more, “hey, travelling to foreign countries and experiencing different cultures sounds amazing!” (Just being honest!)
How has your military service impacted the way you run your business?
John: Honor, integrity, completing the task at hand and doing it with the utmost of your ability.
Julie: Life in the military is a lot easier if you exceed expectations, and that holds true with “real” life and business.
What advice would you give other veterans seeking to open a business in Maricopa?
John: Be honest, do the right thing for your customers, NEVER walk past a mistake and be prepared for long hours. To be successful you must be all in.
The military was a family tradition for Raymond and AJ Serrao. It also developed their skills in automotive and aviation repair. They started Lugnut Auto Repair this year, though they have not yet completely removed themselves from aviation work because it has been lucrative and a critical source of income as they launch their mobile business.
Raymond Serrao and Alton (AJ) Serrao (brothers)
Business: Lugnut Auto Repair
Hometown: Mililani, Hawaii
Raymond: My wife Jennifer is the manager of Lugnut and we have two kids, Alina, 9, and Xalin, 8, who attend Legacy Traditional School here in Maricopa. I have five siblings, four of them were in the military along with both my parents. One of our siblings also works as a technician for Lugnut.
Raymond: I spent six years active Army 67T UH60 Blackhawk crew chief/repairer, with multiple deployments overseas.
AJ: I spent 9.5 years active Army Chinook mechanic/flight engineer, with multiple deployments overseas.
Years in business: We’ve been fixing cars and aircraft for decades. We have been in the auto repair business for less than a year, though.
Nature of the business: Mobile auto repair and maintenance
Why did you join the military?
Raymond: My family served in the military since my grandpa, for three generations; part of it was patriotism. The military provided me the opportunity to gain valuable life skills, discipline and experiences not provided anywhere else.
AJ: I joined for the challenge along with the opportunity to take care of my family and travel.
How has your military service impacted the way you run your business?
Raymond: Attention to detail, staying on task, setting objectives, goals and plans to accomplish them are all done the way military aviation taught me to.
AJ: The military aviation community is very strict with the highest standard and that is how we do everything.
What advice would you give other veterans seeking to open a business in Maricopa?
Raymond: Take all that non-combat training that the military drills in your head and use it. It’s more valuable than you think.
AJ: Maricopa is a fast-growing community and the support received for this city is far beyond any other city I have encountered. Arizona has a strong support system for veterans. I would highly suggest opening a business here. The city is growing quickly and the sooner you start the more imbedded you’ll be when Maricopa and Casa Grande are twice as big as they are now.
The Bug Killer
Raised on a dairy farm, Henry Weaver’s second favorite job ever is pest control. His favorite? The Marine Corps, which took him around the world, from Korea to Germany, from Japan to Iraq. When he started Semper Fi Pest Management this year, he was intent on instilling the values he learned in the Corps – thoroughness, integrity and straight-dealing.
Hank ‘Motivator’ Weaver
Business: Semper Fi Pest Management
Hometown: Fort Plain, New York
Military background: I’ve served 25 years in the U.S. Marine Corps from January 1988 to January 2013, rising to the rank of master sergeant. My occupation was combat camera chief. I served two combat tours during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom
Years in business: 1
Nature of the business: Pest control
Family: Married to Marjorie Weaver for 10 years. We have seven kids (six boys and one girl) and four dogs.
Residence: The Villages
Why did you join the military? I grew up in a very small village in New York and wanted to see the world and serve our country.
How has your military service impacted the way you run your business? Ensuring that Maricopa residents are receiving way above and beyond their expectations in pest control service. I believe providing great communication, looking professional at all times and going the extra mile even though it has nothing to do with pest service. Having motivated attitude and having honor courage and commitment in everyday life.
What advice would you give other veterans seeking to open a business in Maricopa? Use all the leadership traits that were given to you throughout your military career. Always remember to take care of our service members.
A Touchy-Feely Guy
After nearly a quarter-century in the service, Charlie Creely trained at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts and is licensed and certified in multiple therapy/massage modalities including sports, deep tissue, cranial sacral, carpal tunnel, elder touch and more. Creely’s Healing Touch brings all the essentials for relaxation – music, special oils and a calm and friendly demeanor. And of course, his massage table.
Charles “Charlie” Creely
Business: Creely’s Healing Touch
Nature of business: Therapeutic massage for healing and deep relaxation uniquely offered as a service provided in your own home
Hometown: Beverly, New Jersey
Family: Two daughters, 18 and 16 years old
Years in business: 3
Military background: Served in the Army for 24 years. War veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Sixteen years active duty and eight years in the Reserves, retiring in 2007. On duty worked as a diesel tech/mechanic. Off duty studied as a civilian and became licensed as an ER trauma technician.
After retirement, worked at the VA Hospital in Phoenix until 2016. Working with veterans brought me to the understanding that care, kind treatment and the capacity to listen was what made my friends, the veterans just like me, happy and open to communication. These people are close to me; I have given my best and they have brought out the best in me. I continue to serve my community with this experience and the ideal it represents in mind and heart, in my practice.
Why did you join the military? It offered me the opportunity for education; to grow and learn. That was exactly what I was looking for to begin my life and career.
How has your military service impacted the way you run your business? So many aspects of the military are about relationships. People form bonds for life. Maturing and recognizing that was a motivating factor to continue to serve people in my own way, with my personal talents, skills and passion for the healing arts.
What advice would you give other veterans seeking to open a business in Maricopa? I can suggest working as a private enterprise. Being your own boss has distinctive rewards. Also, be clear about your purpose and be passionate and dedicated to your work. Make it work for you and your client. Above all, relax!
This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.
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.
By Julia Gusse
With all the talk, opinions and debate in regards to “taking a knee” and offending or disrespecting our veterans, in my opinion this is all a faux defense of veterans. All active duty/military veterans, swore that “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” regardless of how people wish to invoke those rights.
In working with our vets, I can guarantee you that many of our former military men and women are indifferent to this debate. A veteran in crisis contemplating suicide (20 veterans commit suicide on a daily basis), the vet that is haunted by MST (Military Sexual Trauma), the vet that cannot find a job after serving his/her country, or one that is homeless and looking for his/her next place to eat/sleep; none of them are thinking about the NFL players that took a knee. I find that our veterans have bigger concerns and I ask that if you truly want to honor our veterans, get involved and show your support.
Our Maricopa American Legion Auxiliary Unit #133 has been working diligently to hold Maricopa’s first Veterans Day Parade at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11. For more information visit http://alpost133az.org then click Auxiliary. We are looking for community groups to participate in the parade and volunteers. Please show our veterans your support, bring your friends, your kids and enjoy this community event.
The Maricopa American Legion Post #133 will also be holding our annual Veterans Run and pancake breakfast (Unit #133) on Nov. 4. For more information visit http://alpost133az.org then click Vet Run 2017. Funds raised from this event will benefit our local veterans.
Lastly, the City of Maricopa’s Veterans Committee will be holding a series of events addressing the issues that most affect our local veterans. Please stay involved and show your support.
Julia Gusse is an Air Force veteran, a member of American Legion Unit 133 and a member of the Maricopa City Council.
The Maricopa chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart gathered Aug. 7 to honor the U.S. men and women who were wounded or killed in combat.
Aug. 7 is National Purple Heart Day. This year it served as an opportunity for the local chapter to gather.
The 10-member group celebrated its first anniversary in June, and Chapter Commander Walter Martin is looking to recruit younger veterans.
“It seems like every time we get started, one of our members goes to the hospital,” Martin said.
The majority of the chapter’s members are ageing veterans who are often unable to attend meetings due to medical reasons.
“We all have those types of issues and we are looking for the younger veterans to take over,” Martin said. “(We recognize) that they do have a young wife and family to take care of.”
Martin’s wife, Anita, plans to start a Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Military of the Purple Heart, which will provide education and support to spouses of veterans in the chapter.
“I’m trying to put a women’s group together so the older women can mentor and let them know what to expect,” Anita said.
Anita said many times spouses of military veterans are unaware of how to cope with their husband’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, contributing to issues that sometimes lead to divorce.
“They need help and our government doesn’t provide that for them,” Walter said.
Maricopa became one of nearly 1,500 Purple Heart Cities in the United States in November. The chapter plans to install signage of the designation on State Route 347 in the future.
“The city supports the Purple Heart, not financially, but if you want to do something, the mayor is very gracious and will support that,” Anita said.
Being one of only 11 chapters in the state, the Maricopa MOPH accepts veterans from around the region including Casa Grande, Chandler and surrounding areas.
The chapter meets once a month at Native Grill & Wings. For more information contact Anita Martin at 626-399-6255.
This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.
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.
Maricopa City Hall was host to a Town Hall Meeting March 30 where veterans and their service providers came together to discuss needs within the veteran community. Along with city officials, in attendance were administrators from the Phoenix VA hospital and the Arizona Department of Veterans Services.
Veterans are invited to the Maricopa Veterans Town Hall & Resource Fair on Thursday, March 30, at City Hall.
Veterans will be able to access resources and tools they need to succeed for themselves and for their family, all under one roof. The event is sponsored by Councilwoman Julia Gusse in conjunction with Maricopa American Legion Post 133, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12043, VET IT, Vet’s Community Connections and Blue Star Moms of Maricopa.
What: Maricopa Veterans Town Hall & Resource Fair
When: Thursday, March 30 from 5-8 p.m.
Where: City Hall at 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza
Who: All Veterans and their families are invited
Veterans are asked to bring their ID and DD214 to meet with one of the on-site Veterans Administration Representatives to find out about their benefits and get answers on their questions and concerns.
From 5-6 p.m. the Director of the Phoenix VA and the Director of the Arizona Department of Veteran Services will give an in person presentation on medical and general services available to veterans in our area and will answer questions from attendees.
This event will feature a variety of Maricopa and Pinal County service providers ready to help including:
American Legion Auxiliary
American Legion Post 133
Arizona at Work, Pinal County
Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services
Blue Star Moms
Department of Economic Security
Goodwill (Veteran Employment)
Helping/Hiring/ Honoring our Heroes
Maricopa Fire Department
Maricopa Police Department
Maricopa Police Explorers
Microsoft Chandler Store
The Veterans Directory (Any Veteran Need)
Vets’ Community Connections
Wounded Warrior Project
For additional information please contact:
Sara Delgadillo at 520-316-6827 or Sara.Delgadillo@maricopa-az.gov.
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.
“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/
Richard Hall is the service officer for the Maricopa post of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In that capacity, he helps veterans submit the right paperwork in the right order to receive all the benefits they are due. He serves about 30 veterans a month.
“When you find a good one, you keep him, and he’s a keeper,” VFW Commander Mike Kemery says.
Issues with Vietnam vets like Hall are usually health-related. “A lot of Vietnam vets are frustrated by the paperwork,” Hall says. “I can calm them down and give them straight answers.”
For younger vets, it’s red tape.
“There was one younger vet who was able to get four years’ back-pay, and I’m proud of the fact I helped put that together,” Hall says.
He often has to sit down with vets more than once to get all the facts of a case and all the correct forms. Sometimes that means correcting “help” from previous self-styled veteran advocates.
Hall is a de facto liaison between local veterans and the office of Veterans Affairs. He also serves as a Victim Advocate with the Maricopa Police Department.
Why did you join the military? To find a job and in response to radicals in college.
Where did you serve? Vietnam
What brought you to Maricopa? The solitude and the opportunity to own a nice property.
What incident in your military experience has had the biggest impact on your life? After a helicopter crash and the trek back to base, I appreciated the training and thoroughness of the abilities of those around me. I wasn’t infantry, but suddenly I had to be infantry.
What was the most notable act of heroism you witnessed? The ability of our airmen in helicopters to go in and pick up soldiers on a hot LZ (landing zone).
What were some challenges you faced entering civilian life? Adjusting from a war environment to family and school. People didn’t even acknowledge I had been in Vietnam. And college had gotten so radical, even in the way they talked to the teachers.
What was the best advice you received during your time in the military? Do the job to the best of your ability because you’ve got to learn the job so you can react without thinking.
What is your proudest moment? Helping veterans at the Service Office.
What is the one thing you would like civilians to know about the U.S. military? It’s your family, your sons and daughters, your aunts and uncles, and they’re there to serve and protect.
Residence: Antelope Valley (south of Thunderbird Farms)
Family: Son, daughter and three grandchildren
Pets: Sara the puppy
Hobbies: Golf and fly fishing
Greatest talent: Service to veterans
Age of enlistment: 19
Years in military: Four years active, 19 total
Branch of service: U.S. Army
Highest rank: Staff sergeant
This appeared in the Winter Edition of InMaricopa the Magazine.
By Julia Romero Gusse
Just a few weeks ago two women (Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver) made history in completing the Army’s elite Ranger School. They underwent the same training as their male counterparts. Women did not officially serve in the U.S. military until 1901, but hundreds of women disguised themselves as men and served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.
While Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Haver made history by earning the Ranger tabs, neither one can ever serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment because it is still male-only.
The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 excluded women from combat positions and it was not until 1993 that these exclusions were lifted for women aviators. In 1994 the Pentagon declared “service members were eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the grounds.”
In 2012, a review of pentagon policies resulted in the lifting of restrictions on 14,000 military positions. Women remained ineligible to serve in 238,000 positions, about a fifth of the armed forces. On Jan. 24, 2013, the Combat Exclusion Policy was lifted, meaning both men and women are eligible to serve in front line combat operations.
Women serving in the U.S. military in the past have often seen combat despite the Combat Exclusion Policies. If you believe the history books, women have been serving in combat for over 585 years; in 1430 Joan of Arc was a French combat hero until she was captured and subsequently executed. In 2003 during the invasion of Iraq, Arizona native Lori Ann Piestewa was the first Native American (Hopi) woman in history to die in combat while serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Lioness is an award-winning documentary that tells the story of a group of women in direct combat roles, although it was made in violation of “official military policy.” Women have been contributing in the U.S. armed forces for years, in many fields and during all conflicts.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as of January 2015, there were over 2 million female military veterans and 54,221 in the state of Arizona alone. In 2011 Col. Adele E. Hodges retired after 33 years of service – she was the first female colonel to command the Marine Corps Base of Camp Lejeune in its 65-year history.
It is projected that by 2040 close to 18 percent of all living veterans will be women. I believe it is just a matter of time before Capt. Griest and 1st Lt. Haver (and the women after them) will be let into the all-male regiment. After all, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s motto is “Rangers Lead the Way,” and that is exactly what these women will do.
Julia Romero Gusse is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and lives in Maricopa.
By Julia Romero Gusse
Within the last year military veteran unemployment rates have dropped but for the most part vets are having a harder time than non-veterans finding jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Post 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are the group with the highest unemployment compared to their civilian and veterans of previous conflicts. Many employers and organizations have committed to hiring veterans and a few are providing veteran hiring preferences.
It makes good business sense to hire a veteran. Most companies are hiring vets not just because they want to help them readjust to civilian life but also because of what they bring to the business table. Most veterans learn faster because they have been trained to follow directions in a short period of time, their loyalty and teamwork skills are like no others’, and their commitment and discipline in getting the job done allows them to excel.
Veterans and non-veterans have had a difficult time finding employment since the recession hit and this is evident if you attend any job fairs. The Arizona Workforce Connection’s job fair was held at Harrah’s Ak-Chin a few weeks ago. I attended this fair as a representative of a local veteran non-profit organization (VetIT).
Of the 40 employers that I interviewed, only the Ak-Chin enterprises offer veteran hiring preferences. It is evident the Ak-Chin Indian Community values veterans and is committed to hiring veterans.
Another employer present who indicated a desire to hire veterans was Walmart and, according to their website, on Memorial Day 2015, Walmart and Sam’s Club strengthened their commitment to hire 250,000 veterans by 2020.
For those of you who were unable to attend job fair, I have included 40 of the 52 employers present at the local job fair. Hire a veteran!