2018 Phoenix Veteran’s Day Parade event


2018 Honorees

Loretta Swit*
Celebrity Grand Marshal
Actress, Singer, Dancer

Few actresses can capture the imagination of generations of audiences with the certainty and charm of Loretta Swit. As quick-witted, impassioned Major Margaret Houlihan of television’s most honored series, “M*A*S*H,” Ms. Swit became an American icon and, with its popularity now in worldwide syndication, new fans continue to enjoy her lavish portrayal of the sensuous, sensitive, comedic Major Houlihan. She was so moved by the military and veterans she encountered she supports them to this day and recently narrated the film “Never the Same: The Prisoner of War Experience.”

Ms. Swit has been honored with such recognition as the People’s Choice Award, The Genie Award, The Silver Satellite Award, The Jean Golden Halo Award, the Pacific Broadcasters Award, two Emmy Awards, 10 Emmy nominations and eight nominations for the Golden Globe Award.

She made her Broadway debut in “Same Time, Next Year,” and in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” She has appeared in over 1,500 performances of “Shirley Valentine” – a role for which she won Chicago’s most prestigious theatrical honor, the Sarah Siddons Award.  Tours include “Song of Singapore,” “Love Letters,” “Love, Loss/What I Wore,” and the “Vagina Monologues” in New York, Chicago and London’s West End.

Her television career boasts over 25 movies, including the original “Cagney and Lacey,” in which she created the role of Chris Cagney, with contractual obligations to “M*A *S*H” preventing her from shooting the series.  Other memorable TV films are “Games Mother Never Taught You,” “Hell Hath No Fury,” “The Kid from Nowhere,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Execution,” “Dreams of Gold,” “Valentine” and “A Killer Among Friends.”

Ms. Swit has sung and danced her way through most of television’s musical specials, most notably “The Muppet Show” with Kermit and Miss Piggy and a Broadway television special of “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman.”  She can be seen annually in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” “Miracle at Moreaux,” and “A Christmas Calendar,” aired worldwide.

In the cinema, Ms. Swit has starred in “Stand Up and Be Counted,” “Freebie and the Bean,” “Race with the Devil,” “Beer,” Blake Edwards’ “S.O.B.” with Julie Andrews and William Holden, “Whoops Apocalypse,” “Forest Warrior,” “Boardheads” and “Play the Flute.”

Most recently she was “Eleanor Roosevelt” in sellout runs in Los Angeles and Chicago.  A highlight was meeting Eleanor’s granddaughter at a Meet and Greet. This show and “Me and Jezebel” continue to appear on her calendar.

Her wildlife series, “Those Incredible Animals,” was shown twice weekly on the Discovery Channel for an amazing five-year run, and later viewed on Animal Planet airing in over 30 countries.  Ms. Swit is as impassioned about animals as she is the theatre and is regarded as a leader in the Humane Environment.   The proceeds from her recent book, “SWITHEART” (www.switheart.com) support the Animal Alliance Foundation, ending cruelty for all animals and she has a second book in the works.  She has been named Woman of the Year by both the Animal Protection Institute and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association

Mike Rizzo
World War II Grand Marshal
Corporal, U.S. Army

Mike Rizzo holds his military memories close to his heart. He remembers the men he served with and practices a lesson his grandfather taught him as a child. “If you don’t inject a little humor into each day, it’s a wasted day.” When speaking with Rizzo about his time in the military, you can see the pain and sacrifice in his eyes. And you also see the humor that keeps a sparkle in his eyes.

Corporal Rizzo was drafted in April 1943 and was sent to Camp Wheeler, Georgia. After basic training, he was shipped to England and France for 23 months. His time in France remains significant because he participated in the liberation of a few towns. Despite his war efforts, he has a fond memory of visiting a monastery with almost 20 men. They entered in a line, with Rizzo in front as the Squad Leader. In the entryway to the monastery, there was a pear tree. Each man, starting with Rizzo, picked a pear on his way in. Rizzo chuckles as he reminisces about the bare tree after the squad went inside.

Another notable event in France remains to be the moment that Rizzo lived through an explosion. He was knocked out cold and the rest of the men thought he was dead. When he woke up, everyone was gone.

Rizzo’s memories of his time in Germany range from being injured by shrapnel lodged in his legs during an encounter while on night patrol, to a fellow soldier sitting on the edge of his foxhole, brushing his teeth during a critical time. The latter recollection brings a smile to his face.

Rizzo’s grandfather played a large role in his life. A major lesson he learned from his grandfather’s time serving in the Italian army is to avoid volunteering for anything. “If the job was easy, they would have done it themselves,” Rizzo says. He feels the most challenging aspect of his military career was simply trying to stay alive. He was close to not coming back five times, and each of those moments remain vivid in his memory. Rizzo believes his training with the Browning Automatic Rifle while serving as a security guard in Germany kept him alive.

Rizzo earned the Purple Heart by “being at the right place at the right time.” He was also awarded the Bronze Star and other notable medals. They are all proudly displayed in his living room, next to a portrait of him after a combat injury.

Mike Rizzo is a humble veteran who doesn’t require much recognition for his time served and feels lucky to have made it out of service alive. “War is not like the movies. People suffer and die, while being dirty and hungry, without knowing what tomorrow brings,” he said. This is the message that he would like to share with the world. He is proud and happy to be one of the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshals, a position that allows him to positively affect other veterans.

Francis (Frank) Doherty
Korean War Grand Marshal
Lt. Colonel, U.S. Army
U.S. Air Force Reserves

Francis (Frank) Doherty was born May 21, 1928, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Doherty enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17 during World War II and was given a non-combat assignment. He returned to Detroit and pursued a degree at the University of Detroit, until he was called back to active duty during the Korean War in 1950. Doherty was attached to Company H, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, in which his mission was a machine gunner.

On May 17, 1951, near Sarong-chi, Korea, Doherty and his division were overrun from the rear of their position. During this battle, he was hit in the face with shrapnel from a grenade. Even though he was injured, Doherty showed his selfless, heroic duty and helped carry a wounded comrade to safety, all while exposing himself to the enemy. Doherty provided cover fire using his machine gun to ensure the rest of the division could get to safety. Once at a safe area, he organized his troops and set a new perimeter. For his actions during this battle, Doherty was given the Bronze Star with the Letter “V” for heroic efforts, the Purple Heart and the Combat Infantry Badge with the 2nd Infantry Division.

After returning from Korea, Doherty used his G.I. Bill to complete his degree at the University of Detroit and was commissioned as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserves in 1954.

When he became a civilian, the lessons he learned while on active duty made him appreciate life and the service members protecting our freedom. Doherty says life is too short to waste time arguing with loved ones over small things.

Doherty married his wife Camille in 1955 and they raised eight children together. Even with eight children, he cared so much about his community that he remained in the Boy Scouts and enjoyed passing down his knowledge to the younger generations.

When asked what Veterans Day means, Doherty said, “It is a great honor to be a veteran because its means we’re alive, and makes me appreciate that people get to enjoy the freedom of speech and religion. It’s nice to see people still have the ability to be free and do what they choose to.”

Doherty feels very honored and flattered to be selected as Korean War Grand Marshal in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. He has been selected to take an Honor Flight this year to Washington, D.C., to visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial. In addition to being involved in the Boy Scouts, Doherty is a member of Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity, Reserve Officer Association, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Purple Heart Association, as well as a Past Faithful Navigator with the Knights of Columbus.

Doherty returned to Korea in July 2016 for the Military Historical Tour. During that visit, he led a discussion about his experiences during the war and visited the DMZ.

Frank Doherty is a real example of an American hero.

Santo Graziano
Vietnam War Grand Marshal
Sergeant, U.S. Army

You might say Santo Graziano was born into the U.S. Army. His father was a Commander in the Army and was stationed in Italy during World War II, where he met and married an Italian girl, and young Santo was born. After graduating from college, Graziano and his brother decided to follow in their father’s footsteps and joined the military; Santo opting for the Army and his brother joining the Air Force. “I wanted to do something different in my life and felt that the military would give me that experience,” Graziano says.

What he didn’t expect was Vietnam. Graziano’s daughter Carol, who nominated him as a Grand Marshal, says while she was growing up he was not able to speak about his experience during his service, and it is only more recently that he has begun to talk about that time. “He shared one story that some nights he would be sleeping with rats the size of cats,” she relates, “and how he would have shrapnel flying past him and usually would never get a good night’s sleep.”

It is clear – and understandable – that Graziano prefers not to relive his time in Vietnam. “Trying to explain why the Vietnam War was okay is a struggle,” he admits. “Too many people died. This was a very hard time for anyone to make sense of the situation.”

Graziano spent two years in active service and another year in the Reserves, and earned a number of medals, including the Bronze Star, National Defense Service, Overseas Service, Army Commendation and Vietnam Service.

The veteran says the most important lesson he learned during his time in Vietnam is how lucky we are to live in the United States. “We take for granted the little things that we have and other countries don’t have, like flushing toilets,” Graziano says. “Most of Vietnam at that time did not have any plumbing.”

It is also clear that being in the service taught Graziano the importance of giving back. “Volunteer work is what I take pride in,” he admits. He started the Food for the Poor Project through the Knights of Columbus, beginning by picking up day-old bread, rolls, cookies, pies and other goodies at one location of what is now Panera Bread. The project has now grown to encompass 60 volunteers gathering leftovers from six different businesses six days a week, with items dropped off at St. Vincent de Paul Becker House to feed the less fortunate. “Many of the homeless at St. Vincent de Paul are veterans,” points out Graziano. “I would say almost 50 percent.”

He is extremely thankful for his wife Joan’s support of the Food for the Poor Project, and for his daughter Carol’s efforts in nominating him as a Grand Marshal. “My father is the humblest person I have ever met and he never gets recognized,” wrote Carol in her nomination. “Even when we go out to eat, he saves the leftovers for someone on the street corner who needs it. He donates his time and money any time he can, and always has a smile on his face.”

Anthony Irby
Cold War Grand Marshal
Specialist, U.S. Army

Anthony Irby was just out of high school when he joined the U.S. Army in 1988, towards the end of the Cold War. Just a year earlier, President Ronald Reagan had delivered his famous “tear down this wall” speech, and the dissolution of the USSR was looming in early 1990.

That same year, however, another conflict arose, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Irby, trained in medical logistical support, was assigned to the 32nd Medical Supply, Optical and Maintenance (MEDSOM) under the 44th Medical Brigade in Fort Bragg, NC. He became a member of the ghost unit 135th blood supply detachment. He participated in the campaigns for the Defense of Saudi Arabia, Liberation and Defense of Kuwait and Southwest Asia Cease-Fire. It was a tense time, and Irby was constantly on high alert due to unrelenting impact explosions of SCUD missiles, as well as being exposed to dangers that included blown-up oil fields and burn pits.

Irby completed his enlistment in 1992 with nearly a dozen medals to his name, including the Army Commendation Medal and two Kuwait Liberation Medals. But his transition back to civilian life was not an easy one. He found himself homeless, sometimes sleeping on friends’ couches, in parks, or in his car. He says his faith in God pulled him through this turbulent time and ended up settling in Phoenix and obtaining a degree at Phoenix College. After graduation, Irby joined the Arizona National Guard and landed a job with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Irby’s commitment to serving our country continued after 9/11, when he was sent to Iraq with the 3666th Maintenance Company of the Arizona National Guard, where the company endured suicide bombings and rocket fire. Many members were severely injured by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Irby’s injury though was internal. He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), turned to the VA Medical Center for his care.

Admirably, he didn’t let PTSD stop him from helping others. He realized there was another war in which he could serve – the war on poverty, especially among homeless veterans. He took on the role as Homeless Veterans Outreach Coordinator/Justice Involved Coordinator for the Phoenix VA Regional Office. Through partnerships with community providers, the Phoenix VA Health Care System’s medical staff and others. The alliance was instrumental in helping veterans reduce chronic homelessness among veterans and provide a model of best practice for the country in combating this problem.

Irby finished his Bachelor of Human Service degree at the University of Phoenix and has been appointed to serve as a member of the City of Peoria Veterans Memorial Board. He also served as a commissioner of the City of Phoenix Military Veterans Commission, which helped orchestrate the USO’s presence at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Anthony Irby has been married for more than 10 years to his wife Karen, and they have three beautiful daughters: Azuriah, Aurorah and Arianah.

Gene Wood
Desert Storm Grand Marshal
First Sergeant, U.S. Army

Gene Wood is a proud veteran who served as an advisor to the Army and the National Guard in the southeast part of the United States. His experience includes helicopter mechanics, a leadership role as Crew Chief, as well as advisor to the Technical Assistance and Fielding Team (TAFT) between the Saudi Arabian and United States Armies in Desert Storm. He fielded the Saudi Army’s first attack helicopter battalion.

Among the many significant events during his time in service, Wood remembers a time when the war broke out and the 18-person TAFT team performed all of the operations with the Saudi Army, while he advised them. The concept of “team” is something that Wood clearly focuses on while sharing his experiences.

His time overseas taught him a very valuable lesson: to be patient with other countries and populations of people they served around, especially those who don’t understand what American servicemen do. Wood also proudly notes that the most important aspect of his job was to take care of the servicemen under his supervision.

Wood’s notable career accomplishments include the Bronze Star, Air Medal, and Master Air Crewman’s Wings, as well as the Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding achievements and service to the United States.

The work and training Wood experienced in the military inspired him to work for U.S. Airways as quality control for aircraft maintenance. It’s clear that the patience and safety of others remains as a strong purpose for him.

It’s easy to see that Wood is a patient and caring veteran who also attributes the success of veterans to those that support them “back home.” He respectfully speaks about the hard work and sacrifice his wife endured during his 23 years in service. With the number of times that he was overseas or away from home, she took exceptional care of the home front and managed their separation well.

Wood says Veterans Day remains as “the time we honor ourselves as brothers and sisters in arms for our particular sacrifice.” His wish is for civilians to understand the true purpose of observed holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, as well as the difference between the two. “Let us honor those who have served and live during Veteran’s Day,” he says, “and those who have passed during Memorial Day.”

Wood is humbled and honored to stand up and represent veterans alike. Proudly, he always makes it a point to thank veterans, in and out of uniform, for their service and contributions to our country.

Abby Malchow
Operation Iraqi Freedom Grand Marshal
Chief Petty Officer (LSC), U.S. Navy

Whether it’s equality, suicide prevention, community engagement or bravery, when it comes to veterans, Abby Malchow is there. She is a proud Iraq war veteran who deployed to Fallujah and Ramadi in 2006 with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40, where she led an all-male crew that included three Iraqis. Post-deployment, the Navy Logistics Specialist joined Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to connect with others who were also there. Like her, many of the veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress.

Malchow was selected to be one of 22 veterans who stormed Capitol Hill in 2014 to garner Congressional support of the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act,” demanding more effective care for those in crisis. Why 22? At that time, it was estimated 22 veterans take their lives each day. Today the new statistics cite it as 20 a day. Abby knows this all too well: A shipmate succumbed to suicide shortly after they returned from Iraq, and her best friend succumbed two months later. “I knew something was up when he closed his social media accounts and got rid of a beloved sports car,” she recalls. She immediately tried to reach him by phone, through friends, the police, and crisis lines. A couple of nights later, she received the dreaded call. “If you think someone is contemplating suicide,” Malchow says, “have the bravery to ask!” The Clay Hunt Act was signed into law in 2015.

Malchow advocated on Capitol Hill again in 2017 for the “Deborah Sampson Act” (Sampson was a veteran of the Revolutionary War in 1782!) and equal treatment for female veterans at the VA.

Malchow earned her MBA at University of Maryland, and was recently selected for the inaugural class of the George W. Bush Stand-To Veteran Leadership Initiative. Her personal leadership project for the initiative is focused on providing targeted intervention through artificial intelligence on social media platforms to proactively identify and prevent veteran suicides in a collaboration with the VA’s Crisis Line. She wants to make it easier to get help. “Congress is working on a 3-digit phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” she says. “But simply saying, ‘Siri, call Veterans Crisis Line’ is another option.”

Malchow was nominated by her Intel co-worker and fellow veteran Kelly Zancola. They’re on the board of the “American Veterans at Intel” employee resource group, which Abby helped create in her first three months at the company. The group serves over 1,000 veterans at Intel in Arizona alone, and also helps veterans in the local community through volunteering.

When it comes to Veterans Day, Malchow has a fierce respect for draftees, who reported for duty when their nation called, but also those who volunteered in the past and present. “They willingly go into harm’s way and should be honored for putting their country before themselves,” she says. “Their courage is a powerful inspiration.”

Ian Parkinson
Operation Enduring Freedom Grand Marshall
Sergeant, U.S. Army

“If there’s one thing that’s held true my entire life, it’s that I wanted to stand up for my country. Afghanistan is where I was given the opportunity to do just that,” says 28-year-old Ian Parkinson. He was inspired by his family’s long history of military service: father and uncles, Vietnam-era veterans; grandfathers, World War II veterans; great-grandfathers, World War I – extending all the way down to family members serving in the American Revolution. Watching “Saving Private Ryan” growing up sparked an indelible passion for the American military and history. “There was something about combat I was drawn to, despite the inherent risk,” he said. On June 6, 2011, Parkinson lost both legs above the knees, and had severe upper body injuries, when he encountered an improvised explosive device (IED). No other soldiers were severely wounded.

Back when Parkinson was 16, his 17-year-old brother died, so his parents were very reluctant to risk losing another son. “I promised them I’d only do one three-year enlistment.” He joined the Army when he was 19, serving in Korea and deploying to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. He acknowledged he stretched his time to four years, joking that he probably would have stayed longer, “but an infantryman missing that many parts isn’t in high demand.” His decorations include the Purple Heart, Airborne wings, two Army Commendation Medals, and a Combat Infantry Badge.

Parkinson’s parents were able to stay in San Antonio at the Fisher House for their son’s major surgeries. In hindsight, the young soldier wonders if he “jinxed it.” Prior to enlisting, he play-acted what it would be like if he lost an eye or a limb in war. In truth, it was incredible forward thinking, which is a critical quality for all service members. He said he “doesn’t care at all” that he lost his legs – and even continues to skateboard as a hobby. “My center of gravity has changed, but at its core, skateboarding is skateboarding,” says Parkinson. “Plus, it’s great exercise.”

Every day, Parkinson continues to serve and motivate others. He’s a web developer with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Information Technology from Arizona State University, finance officer for the Military Order of Purple Heart, Chapter 790, state junior vice commander, as well as a motivational speaker, focusing on ownership. “I made this decision, I knew what was ahead,” he says. “I did feel bad that someone else had to pick up the slack, and stand an extra guard duty, when I wasn’t there anymore.”

Nominator Peter Haas says, “I can think of no better example than Ian of an American serving with distinction and honor, asking nothing in return, and giving more than could ever be expected.”

Parkinson simply says, “With the right attitude, it doesn’t have to stop anyone, ever.”

Greg Debernard
Business Community Grand Marshal
VP, Enterprise Litigation & Phoenix General Manager, USAA

Greg DeBernard was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was adopted by two loving parents, Margaret and Guido. He attended the University of Utah on an ROTC Scholarship and graduated in 1986. He graduated from Southwestern University College of Law in 1989.

He currently serves as the Regional Vice President of the USAA Phoenix Campus. In this role, he is the Senior Officer responsible for shaping and influencing workplace culture to align with USAA’s mission, the USAA Standard, Core Values and the commitment to service philosophy. He is responsible for Phoenix site management, the external community, military and government relations. DeBernard is a practicing attorney and leads the Enterprise Litigation Team at USAA.

In addition to his service for USAA, DeBernard was commissioned into the United States Army in 1986 and served until 2011, eventually retiring from the U.S. Army Reserves. Most of DeBernard’s service was as a member of the California Army National Guard, during which time he held six commands, including a command of an infantry unit, armor unit and the California Officer Candidate School.

DeBernard gained both an appreciation and love for the military during his service. He grew up idolizing his father, who served in World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps. This served as inspiration for him to seek his ROTC scholarship. During his service, he had the honor of serving alongside individuals from all over the country and from other countries. He learned the most important lesson that inspires his commitment to the military, which is the devotion to the person on your left and your right to make it through.

DeBernard is married to Jami and they have two adult children, Aaron and Rachel. He is active in the community through various memberships, including Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Luke AFB Fighter Country Foundation. Greg and Jami DeBernard incorporate a fit and healthy mindset into their daily living and are active pickleball players, among many other activities. The DeBernards also share a passion for leadership and giving. They are both master graduates of Rapport Leadership International and are committed to influencing those around them to give and to reaching their highest potential.


2018 Winners

Jake Marr
11th grade
Seton Catholic Prep
Teacher: Patricia Nash


Imagine a dark world; a world full of blackness and despair. The air reeks of rotten flesh and feces; the smell permeates every inch of porous garments. Food is a luxury; what is consumed is unnameable and unidentifiable. Mud covers everything; equipment, clothing, quarters, and food cannot escape the mud’s ubiquity. People from different walks of life would call this hell, a nightmare, or punishment. Yet all those who took part in this event were not being punished, but they could not leave. Some of those who saw the conclusion of this war did not truly leave it behind. After their discharge from the army, this sick version of hell on Earth remained with them. All of it hung fresh in their mind. These heroes could not get away; the wound never healed, it was continually reopened and closed.

The World War I trenches proved to be cause of mental scars to many veterans of the conflict. Numerous brave men endured their lives in the trenches and were privileged enough to leave them behind, but countless amounts of soldiers did not receive the same opportunity. It was not uncommon to be buried alive, shelling would throw enough dirt onto a man that he could not be dug out. Curiosity killed men as well. A quick look over the trench wall could prove fatal or disabling to one’s skull. Furthermore, even in the confines of the trenches, the mud and water could kill a man. The constant dampness around a man’s foot would cause it to become gangrenous and require amputation. No matter the situation, nobody was safe in the trenches.

One man knew the trenches well. He was tasked with repairing the trenches and improving them to better suit battle condition. This man was Sergeant Charles Edward Dilkes. He was the leader of a division of trench engineers. These men led by Dilkes would install first aid stations, create communication trenches, and repair damages done to the various lines. Dilkes’ position sounds like that of a non-combatant, but his every task was done under enemy fire. Sergeant Dilkes put himself and his division in harm’s way on every single mission to ensure the safety and comfort of divisions fighting in the mud. Sergeant Dilkes was a strong man who encountered the horrors of the trenches every day in the war.

Sergeant Dilkes went on to serve up until the signing of the armistice. As Dilkes was discharged from service, he collected his various diaries and records to develop a memoir upon his return to the states. His contributions to the war shed a different light on the trenches on the allied front. Dilkes maintained the very ground that protected and laid waste to scores of great men. Not every soldier can share the intimacy he had with the trenches.

Alyssa Canales
10th grade
Cactus Shadows High School
Teacher: Molly Gum


It is November 22, 1916, at 8 o’clock at night. You’re tired. Your brain pounds against your skull, matching the ruthless noise of your comrades screaming orders at each other. You let go of your weapon and fall to your knees, immediately feeling the graininess of the dirt bite at your skin. You close your eyes – not because you’re sleepy, but because you are sick of having to watch the world around you. Sick of listening to your friend scream in agony at the sight of his bloody chest and missing leg. Sick of always being cold and hungry. You listen unwillingly to the sound of bombs and gunfire constantly blaring throughout the lonely nights. The stench of death and fear always manages to creep into you ‒ no matter how much you tell yourself you’re not afraid. No matter how much you remind yourself that you will return home, the doubt still lingers and taunts you at night. You use your calloused hands to wipe the dirt and tears off your sunken face. If the violence of the war doesn’t kill you, the living conditions of the trenches will. You’re snapped out of it by your fellow soldier. He tells you to get your gun and keep shooting. You don’t even know what you’re supposed to be shooting at. You just want to rest, but you know you have to keep going until sunrise. Maybe one day you’ll be happy to see the sun. You’re a 24-year-old man risking everything for his country. This is World War I.

The generation that gripped their men with hesitant affirmation and sent them to a foreign land to defend their nation is now gone. The men who put on their boots to fight for everything they believe in and set the example for the generations to follow have made an undeniable impact on our nation’s history. The century that has followed the event of WWI has been riddled with additional violence and sharp changes in our society. The world as we know it has been shaped and molded by the brave men that served in WWI. The influence of the war created an inspiration that was evident in events such as WWII, Vietnam, and the civil rights movement. The courage and utter boldness demonstrated by those who gave their lives in the trenches quickly became a motivating factor in the fight for change. In the last hundred years, our country has had to face evil in the face and spit in its eyes. Whether it be fighting anti-Semitism on a national scale or racism in their own communities, the bravery needed by these men and women was first clearly demonstrated by our WWI veterans.

As a second-year participant and co-editor for the Cactus Shadows High School chapter for Veterans Heritage Project, I am a firsthand witness of the impact of those who served. I’ve listened to the stories of those who have been on the front lines, those who defended us from thousands of feet in the air, and those who stayed home to provide moral, physical, and financial support. Listening to WWII soldiers whose fathers were WWI sailors, and being able to absorb the first-hand accounts of the struggles they endured and then being able to appreciate the life I have because of them is something that can never be repaid.

What was life like in the trenches of World War I? It was festering in your own filth and not being able to shower for days on end. It was slicing your hands and fingers on the sharp barbed wire surrounding you while you were just trying to complete your duties. It was wishing you were somewhere else, but understanding you had responsibilities and you needed to fulfill them no matter what. It was becoming accustomed to violence and consistent chaos. It was creating the impact of the American soldier.

Aliyah Galvez
10th grade
Basha High School
Teacher: Colonel (ret.) Clifford Stansell


World War I is unique in that it was the first global war and although it may have been a century ago, the foreign policy and dramatic shift in culture still affects us today. The reintroduction of previous military tactics, such as digging trenches for shelter, were merged with new modern technology like machine guns and chemical weapons. The trenches of World War I were dug to protect the soldiers from enemy attack and represented safety in war. When a valiant soldier runs out of the safety and familiarity of the trenches, he is completely vulnerable. When the U.S. entered the war, many different groups ran out of their own metaphorical trenches to unite and support the war effort.

The U.S. was the last to enter World War I because Americans wanted to remain neutral and not engage in European affairs. However, minds quickly changed when German U-boats began attacking civilian ships, such as the RMS Lusitania. On April 6, 1917, the U.S sided with the allies to fight in the Great War. The United States left its own trench of safety, isolationism, and neutrality behind to fight the war to end all wars while also trying to prevent further conflicts by proposing ideas such as the League of Nations. However, the war created a lasting domino effect on the home front. Young American men were required to fight for their country, especially in the brutal underground trenches along the Western European border.

Famous author Ernest Hemingway served in Italy as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross. Hemingway described the feeling of war from a young man’s perspective, saying, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you…. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.” As young adults, they could never prepare for the atrocities seen both inside the trenches and the in-between battlefield known as no-man’s land.

The young men left the comfort of their home life, their family relationships, and jobs behind and became soldiers sacrificing their lives on foreign soil. The women went from being the caretaker of the house to rolling up their sleeves and dominating the workforce, filling in the vacated jobs left behind from their husbands. The children of World War I left the comforting years of their childhood behind as they were forced to grow up quickly and participate in the war effort on the home front while balancing the emotional trauma of loss. There was a natural sense of patriotism and perseverance seen in every American, especially during the Great War. World War I instigated political and cultural change that, 100 years later, still affects us today. We should continue to honor the brave that came out of their own trenches, making themselves vulnerable to change and leading the United States to victory.