2020 Phoenix Veteran’s Day Celebration

Due to COVID-19, the Phoenix Veteran’s Day Parade was virtual in 2020. Watch the event below, or scroll down to view our award recipients.


2020 Honorees

Bill Shackelford

Bill Shackelford

William Shackleford
World War II Honoree
U.S. Navy

Bill Shackleford enlisted in the U.S. Navy the day after Pearl Harbor. He started his service in June of 1942 and received his wings at Pensacola in August 1943. He graduated from flight school as an Ensign in the Navy. He was sent to San Diego and, once his squadron was organized, it was on to Hawaii where he and others boarded the USS Monterey – an independence-class light carrier.

Shackleford was involved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June of 1944. This battle was a major naval battle of World War II that eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions.

In September 1944, Shackelford was shot down but could land his plane on the island of Panay in the Philippines. The people of the island picked him up and kept him from being captured by the Japanese. While there, he became a part of the United States Armed Forces Far East as part of its guerilla forces for three months. During this time, he was listed as Missing In Action, according to the Navy. After the three months, Shackleford and eight of his squadron were located and picked up by submarine to be taken to Australia. They were attacked and spent 24 hours on the Pacific Ocean’s bottom while bombs were dropped on their area. It took another three weeks for Shackleford and his companions to make their way across Australia to New Guinea, where they were picked up by a Navy Mars (ocean boat patrol) plane and transported to San Diego.

Shackleford served in the Navy for 16 years and is featured in two different books written about WWII. After the war, he bought a foundry and machine shop. In 1970 he went to work for a power transmission company working there until his retirement in 1988.

He also married his high school sweetheart, and they had six children. They were married for 65 years, raising their family in Parkersburg, WV. In West Virginia, he was a volunteer for the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club for many years. Shackleford moved to Arizona, and after the passing of his wife when he was 90 years young, his son encouraged him to find something to do with his time. Shackleford applied to be a Volunteer at Banner Boswell Medical Center. He has spent the last nine years serving Banner Boswell as a Day Chairman, providing just shy of 3,500 hours.

Avery “Dan” Hampton
Korean War Honoree
U.S. Marine Corps

Avery “Dan” Hampton joined the U.S. Marine Corp at 17 years old. He was in the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Division. While in the Marine Corps, Hampton served a tour of duty in Korea and two tours in Vietnam, seeing massive battlefield action. He participated in 10 different major battle offensives, including “Utah,” and “Texas.” Hampton went in with 1,200 men in his battalion, and he was one of only 137 men that came home. His battalion lost 1063 men in Vietnam. He has many medals and commendations, including the Presidential Unit Citation from the Korean Marine Corps.

Hampton credits the military with teaching him discipline and the ability to work with people. “I saw men give their lives for our country and our flag. That is why today, I fly the flag proudly at my home. When I see the flag flying, there is a pride that swells in my heart, a lump in my throat, and a tear in my eye because I know the price we pay to keep our flag flying. I remember those who gave the ultimate price in service to our country,” he said.

Hampton says the military also taught him how to respect those in authority. He feels that without obedience, there would have been confusion in the ranks. When he became a Master Sergeant (E-8), he taught those under him his servant leadership style, of how to lead and walk with them side by side. He tried to teach them to be safe, to do their job, and to do so with pride and patriotism.

After he retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, he was an upholstery store owner for nearly six years. While working in this shop, there was a different tug pulling at his heart. “I saw many young people living lost lives, and I wanted to intervene and show them how God could help them through His love and obedience,” said Hampton.

That’s when he enrolled in a Bible College and became a Baptist minister. He was selected as the Assistant Pastor at West Coast Baptist Church in Vista, CA, and ministered to150 people in their youth group. At the age of 47, he went back to college. Upon completion of that tenure, he began the Barstow Baptist Temple in Barstow, CA. He was both the founder and pastor. The church started with 52 people. In eight years, his numbers grew to more than 400. He pastored at this church for 29 years and stayed on two additional years to help transition his congregation to the new pastor. He is still ministering to folks today at age 85.

Hampton married his wife Edith in 1955. He met her when he came back from Korea, and they have four children; three sons and one daughter. He also has nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Two of his sons also served in the military, one in the U.S. Navy for ten years, and the other did six years in the U.S. Air Force. He and his wife have been married for more than 65 years.

Of his service to country Hampton says, “America is the greatest nation we have on this earth. I love it, and if I could fight today, I would. I truly love the red, white, and blue.”

Thomas Kirk
Vietnam War Honoree
U.S. Air Force

Col. Thomas E. Kirk Jr. was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot with 28 years of active duty service. He is a veteran of both the Korean War and Vietnam War conflicts. During his military career, Kirk served worldwide, commanded a fighter squadron in the Vietnam War, commanded a Pilot Training Wing in Alabama, served as Deputy Commander of the Lowry Technical Training Center, Denver, CO, and was Vice Commander of Special Forces at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

Most noteworthy, while leading the largest fighter-bomber raid of the Vietnam War on Oct. 28, 1967, Colonel Kirk’s F-105 was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Hanoi, North Vietnam. With his plane engulfed in flames, forcing him to parachute from it. Upon landing, he was immediately captured and spent five-plus years as a Prisoner of War (POW) at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. After the war’s end in March 1973, he was set free.

When Kirk reflects on his service, many thoughts come to mind. “My military life and service created in me a deep love for and appreciation of the wonders of our country – specifically freedom, opportunity, and the ability to do and be whatever I chose (within reason). My jet fighter airplanes career re-enforced my sense of discipline in life and flight and trust in my fellow airmen. My POW experience, while tough, taught me how to live with adversity, keep the faith, love of family, and belief in the goodness of our country. When I speak of our military, the operative words are “Service to our Country.” In my view, Veterans do not wish to be thought of as heroes. Instead, they ask that their service and sacrifice be appreciated and noted.”

His awards include the Air Force Cross, four Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, nine Air Medals, and the Purple Heart for his combat leadership and heroism. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Virginia Military Institute and a master’s degree in business from the University of Southern California.

After his military retirement in 1978, he became a Certified Financial Planner, first overseas in Italy and then in Vail, CO. At the age of 80, he and his wife Ann moved to Anthem in 2008.

Today, Kirk uses his experience as a POW to speak to the youth and others about how he broke under extreme punishment. In doing so, he hopes to help students and veterans alike embrace their strengths and weaknesses. He encourages them to surround themselves with people who make them better and find their inner reserves to battle temptations.

In closing, he says, “I love my life, and I am blessed with a wonderful wife, Ann. My motto has been and is, Every day above ground Is a great day.”

Jim Kelsey
Cold War Honoree
U.S. Army

Jim Kelsey was 14 months old when his father, a West Point graduate, was killed in combat during World War II. Destined to follow his father, Kelsey entered the Army in 1965 as an Infantry Officer, almost immediately being deployed to Vietnam as a rifle platoon leader and later having a second tour as a company commander. He transferred to Military Intelligence in 1969.

Trained at Fort Holabird, MD, he wrote the Army’s intelligence volume analyzing the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Later serving on the Army Staff in the Pentagon, he oversaw the first exchange of General Officers between the Soviet Union and the United States since the end of World War II. Serving as the Chief of the All Source Intelligence Center for the Combined Field Army in Korea, he provided daily analytical products to the largest Army in the free world.

Selected for Battalion Command, Kelsey led over 400 counterintelligence personnel in Germany to hunt for Soviet and East Bloc spies threatening U.S. forces in Europe. After graduating from the Army War College, he was instrumental in creating the Military Intelligence Corps while assigned to Fort Huachuca, AZ. Kelsey then returned to Germany to command the largest intelligence brigade in the Army with over 3000 people in 10 countries. He was in command when the Berlin Wall fell and directed operations to exploit intelligence garnered from refugees and defectors from the Soviet Union and all the East Bloc nations.

Kelsey then served as the Director of Operations for the Intelligence and Security Command, directing 26,000 operators during the first Desert Storm. His last assignment was as a Chief of Staff and Garrison Commander at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, overseeing the most extensive military construction project since the Pentagon building. Following retirement from the Army, Kelsey spent 15 years in the defense industry advising on intelligence strategy, equipment, and operations

Looking back at his career, he is humbled by the sacrifices the men and women under his command made for this Nation. He says, “The greatest duty one has is to ensure that those sacrifices were for the greater good, preserving the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today.:

On a personal level, he knows none of his success would have been possible if his wife and two daughters had not supported him in 22 moves over 30 years.

While in the U.S. Army, he earned the Combat Infantrymen’s Badge, Parachute Badge, Special Forces Tab, General Staff Badge, the Bronze Star with V, four Legions of Merit, five Meritorious Service Medals, three Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars, two Air Medals and an Army Commendation Medal.

Aaron Dudney
Operation Restore Hope Honoree (Somalia)
U.S. Army

Aaron Dudney joined the U.S. Army in 1981 to become a Radio Teletypewriter operator.
His first duty station was at Fort Lewis, where he was assigned to 2/4 Field Artillery and then went to Germany, where he served with the 3/35th Field Artillery for five years. Afterward, he was reassigned to Fort Ord, California, where he was attached to 2/10 Cavalry. He went to Ranger School, Airborne School, Air Assault School, and Repel Master School. After Fort Ord, Dudney was sent to Camp Red Cloud South Korea for a year, went to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he led a communication team into Somalia to support the mission Operation Restore Hope. His team provided the airbase backhaul voice and data communication for the Fir Force, Marine Corp expeditionary force, and 101st Air Assault division. During his time in Somalia, he was involved in a paratroop operation with the Australian airborne team.

“Joining the military was a much-needed turning point in my life, and it truly shaped me into the man I am today. When I joined the Armed Forces, I wasn’t sure what I stood for, other than I needed something to help me turn my life around. The military offered discipline, training, skills, and a sense of purpose. It didn’t take long to feel the belonging that was once missing in my life. My initial reasons for joining had become somewhat opaque and were replaced with a new sense of reality, team, purpose, and patriotism. I now had my guiding light,” says Dudney.

After 20 years of service, he retired and began his second career with Arizona Public Service (APS) as a Communication Technician. APS’s deep history of supporting and hiring Veterans was instrumental during this transition.

“Veterans are more than just welcomed at APS. They invest in them and provide many great opportunities. Within my life, the only thing that can compare to my service to this Nation is the opportunity APS has given me. I now spend time trying to give back through charities and my time by donating it to the APS Veterans Engagement Transition Retention (VETERN) group, the nonprofit Honoring America’s Veterans, and the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade,” he adds.

In closing, he leaves us with this thought, “I believe that those of us who have served or currently serving become brothers and sisters in arms regardless if we know each other or not. It’s a bond chiseled into our soul through our common sharing of the blood, sweat, tears, and sometimes more. To use the quote loosely, “If I have to explain you wouldn’t understand.” -Oscar Wilde.

David Clukey, Lt. Col (Ret)
Operation Enduring Freedom Honoree
U.S. Army

Lt. Col. (Retired) David S. Clukey was commissioned as an Armor Officer upon graduation from Georgia Southern University in 1998. His initial assignments included the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), Fort Carson, Colorado, and the 3rd ACR.

Clukey was deployed to Operation Joint Forge, Bosnia, and Operation Bright Star, Egypt. LTC Clukey conducted three combat tours to Afghanistan to support Operation Enduring Freedom and led a three-person advisory team to support the first autonomous Marine Special Operations Command, Joint Combined Exercise for Training in Kenya. While in service, he earned the distinction as a Green Beret, an exceptional reputation of the Special Forces.

Clukey’s last assignment was as the Commander for the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion. In September 2018, he retired from active duty after more than 20 years of service in the U.S. Army.

Clukey’s awards and decorations include the Special Forces Tab, the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Special Forces Combat Diver Badge, and the Recruiter Badge. He has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), as well as other various U.S. and foreign decorations and badges.

Clukey holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Georgia Southern University and a Master of Science in defense analysis specializing in irregular warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School. He attends the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University as an MBA candidate.

He continues to share his knowledge and expertise within his local community. Clukey is a freelance Senior Military Analyst and Expert. He also is a Fellow with the Special Operators Transition Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to helping Special Operations Forces veterans transition from the military into their next successful career. Clukey is an active member of several veteran service organizations. He has shared his war-time experiences with the high school youth in our community through the Veterans Heritage Project and the Military Order of the World War’s Arizona Youth Leadership Conference.

John Lewandowski
Operation Iraqi Freedom Honoree
U.S. Marine Corps

John Lewandowski chose the Marines for discipline and a way to serve our country. But this path didn’t come easy. In high school, he was a bit of a troublemaker and walked away from schooling to return later and graduate from Arcadia High School.

At 19, he found a new way of life in the Marine Corps, serving for 21 years. His stateside duty stations include North Carolina, Hawaii, Arizona, and California. His overseas deployments include Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, Thailand, Egypt, Bahrain, and Australia.

His deployment to Iraq came as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While nearing the end of his career in Iraq, he reflected upon those that would follow in his footsteps. It brought him pride to witness the next generation of Marines who were hard workers, willing to expend the maximum effort and understand the reasons behind keeping the Corps’ traditions alive.

He cites his military service in turning his life around and giving him many wonderful opportunities.

For the last seven years of his active duty commitment, Lewandowski was in California, and his wife and two young boys were in Arizona. Lewandowski would drive home every Friday and leave again on early Monday mornings. He retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 in the Marine Corps.

He is a first-generation American by way of Polish descent. His parents were very hardworking, and eventually, that carried over to John.

Within his first two years in the Marines, he found a beautiful Marine and married her. Although he was a city boy, his wife Donna was a country girl. The two made it work, and now after 25 years are still going strong. They raised two sons and currently reside in Goodyear.

Lewandowski now uses his leadership and operational skills from the Marine Corps in his role with Cisco Systems.

Today, Lewandowski likes to keep the spirit of America and the Corps alive. Throughout the year, you can find John walking around waving the American flag on days like Memorial Day or the anniversary of September 11th. Lewandowski also likes to volunteer with the Patriot Guard Riders to honor Veterans by conducting escort missions to their final resting place.


2020 Winners

Paula HortigPaula Hortig
Grade 10
Casteel High School
Queen Creek, AZ
Teacher: Renee Howell

America – a beacon of hope and freedom. That’s what everyone thinks about the United States back in Germany. The fact that America is the country of independence influenced me a lot when I decided to spend one year here. I wanted to see what it was like to live in a country where everything was possible. As a German exchange student, I was fascinated by the many flags outside of people’s houses that showed how proud they were to be a part of America. I was wondering why people would be so patriotic of their own country. That was the point when I started researching America’s history and its glorious way to independence.

As I read in the history books, it was a back-breaking journey. America had many casualties, but as Bob Marley said, “It’s better to die fighting than be a prisoner all days of your life.” My respect belongs to the people that kept fighting, that never gave up even though a lot of people lost hope. There is no revolution without people that fight for it. It was a tough battle; the American army was outnumbered and not well-organized. How could anyone believe that this army could defeat the British? Other countries didn’t believe in it, but the fighters never gave up.

Even after they lost battles, they woke up the next morning, telling themselves that it was worth dying for their cause. They knew that freedom wouldn’t be given free of cost. Freedom has to be taken. Everyone is as free as they want to be. And these fighters, they wanted to be free. They laid the foundation for a free America. I speak from experience when I say that people from other countries look up to America. Why shouldn’t we? This country exists because people didn’t give up, and they fought for their cause. How can a country with a history like that not be taken as an example of freedom? It isn’t the freedom itself that makes this country admirable; it’s the people who fought for it.

All in all, I strongly believe that other countries should look to America as an example. No country’s history shows this much effort and sacrifice put towards ensuring its people’s freedom. Liberty is an important word here, and other countries should definitely look more towards America as a role model.

Gowri Shankar-BijuGowri Shankar Biju
9th Grade
Hamilton High School
Chandler, AZ
Teacher: Linda Faria

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Those are the final words of Emma Lazarus’s poem New Colossus, immortalized beneath the feet of America’s literal beacon of liberty, the Statue of Liberty. For as long as we can remember, it has been a constant presence in New York City, guiding immigrants to the promise of a better land. While other nations view liberty as a concept or a privilege, Americans see liberty as a fundamental right that everyone is entitled to. Today, we almost seem to take this right for granted, yet it would have never been possible if not for the selfless and courageous sacrifices of our veterans serving in the armed forces.

As a country, our history of conflicts has always been about defending the rights we cherish. From the Revolutionary War, where Patrick Henry famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death!” to World War II, we have broadcasted a message of tolerance and freedom through our brave and resilient military. Whether they fought in the trenches of World War I, the humid jungles of Vietnam, or the arid deserts of the Middle East, the courage and dedication these men and women displayed towards their country was humbling. Take, for example, Senator John McCain, who endured extreme torture at the hands of the Vietnamese because he didn’t want to betray his country and the values it stood for. He suffered extensive abuse and was forced to give US intelligence to the Vietnamese, yet his mental fortitude allowed him to recite the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line as his squadron mates.

Stories like these are not exceptions. There are many stories of unsung heroes who sacrificed everything for their country. They risked their life and health to defend an idea, a dream that all people should be given the right to be free. By establishing ourselves as a military power, we have become a beacon of liberty. The USA today attracts people of all religions, races, and ethnicities.

In the New Colossus, Lazarus refers to the Statue of Liberty as “The Mother of Exiles.” Our nation is a patchwork of many different cultures and backgrounds, yet we are still held together by our common values of liberty and freedom. In times of crisis, we emerge stronger. It is because of our diversity that we stand united as a beacon of liberty. After the 9/11 attacks, George W Bush addressed the nation by saying in his speech, “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil – the very worst of human nature – and we responded with the best of America.” I believe that our veterans represent the very best of America, and without them, we would still be a small nation with big dreams.

Dianette MolinaDianette Molina
12th Grade
Coronado High School
Scottsdale, AZ
Teacher: Dr. Jo Markette

America was built upon the words of Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” America shines through its strength and emphasizes its diversity. Our nation is a beacon of light for its freedoms, opportunities, and its citizens.

America is a beacon of light for its freedoms. One of the first words that pop into your mind when you hear ‘America’ is freedom. It’s what the colonies desperately fought for in the 1770s and what we citizens continue to fight for now. Immigrants and citizens enjoy multiple freedoms such as the freedom of religion, speech, press, and the right to peacefully assemble, which is significant to American lives. They are some of the privileges most overlooked but most valuable in the US. Thousands immigrate here daily for our desirable liberties.

Furthermore, America is also a beacon of light for its opportunities. America, the land of opportunity, guides millions here daily, where there is something for everyone, whether that be a career, an education, or a family. Just like my grandfather saw when my dad was growing up. He lived in California for months to send money back to his family in Mexico. My grandpa, who found a way to support his family, kept going. Though it was a difficult sacrifice leaving his family so often, he knew America had opportunities that could aid his large family.

Additionally, America is a lit beacon because of its citizens. Americans struggled through history, but we grew stronger. There have certainly been times of terror within the US, but its citizens always shine through the darkness. Moments such as the Civil Rights Movement hold true to the brave hearts of American citizens. Liberty was restricted for people of color, segregation was rampant across the nation, and innocent lives were in potential danger for speaking their minds, but did that stop the fight for racial equality? No. Through fear and looming threats, citizens found the courage to continue until “all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” was held true to every citizen. Even through tear gas and rubber bullets, we still find the courage to go on protests and fight against the unjust. We protest on. Americans push forward because we know it’s right. Past all the thorns and hardships, you’ll always find open arms and resilient, benevolent citizens.

America has many great aspects we uphold that make us a beacon of light. The US has offered millions of people numerous freedoms and opportunities. Even in these challenging moments, we citizens find that bright beacon within ourselves and our country, and we follow it, coming out stronger together. For decades, we’ve been a worldwide signal of safety, and for many more decades, we will remain a bright beacon giving a warm welcome to millions more.

Xoshill SaldanaXoshill Saldana
Grade 11
Betty H. Fairfax High School
Laveen, AZ
Teacher: Dr. Kirk Loving

America, a land of triumph and of liberty. It is the land of the free and the land of opportunities for every individual. Our nation is exemplified by our military, which is a reflection of our people. We may not be perfect, but we are a diverse group of citizens willing to risk it all for our country and our home. Our military stands ready to risk their lives to give their people a better nation that is united with grit and independence. However, it all began on the date of July 4, 1776, when our founding fathers took a pen and stroked their signature down onto the document known as the Declaration of Independence. This brave act represented the ascendancy of liberty over tyranny. This would go down as one of the most historic events in U.S. history. Our break from the British crown served as a beacon for nations everywhere, that true liberty was possible. This historic event is something we must cherish, something we must celebrate, as we must always keep in mind the reasons for which our founding fathers fought and died.

Sitting in my history class, I learned how difficult the path to independence was for America to obtain. All the colonists wanted the same thing: fair laws, reasonable taxes, and above all, liberty to live as free people. They wanted a nation where they were not superior nor less than anyone else; they wanted a nation where all were equal in every aspect of human rights. To be free to pursue success and joy, the natural outcome of their hard work and sacrifice. To leave their mark, to inform and impact future generations to do better, to not lose hope despite inevitable hardships, and to have faith and let your voice be heard, as it is the best advocacy you can perform. America has had heroes throughout history, and our military continues to do that to this day. This sacrifice is admired and respected around the world, and as a citizen who has benefited from liberty it has provided me, I am very appreciative.

Coming from a family of immigrants, I can attest to the fact that the USA is truly a beacon of liberty for all. America might not be perfect in some people’s eyes, but for those who know the real meaning of liberty, especially a young person like me, there could be no better place. I am beyond proud and honored to be born in the land of rights, freedom, and liberty. A place where I can breathe in peace, despite the pigment of my skin. A place I call home, a place that has offered me a myriad of opportunities to get to where I want to be and to reach my goals. It is all seen, known, and respected. Thank you, my America, and thank you for those who sacrificed it all to ensure our independence and our freedom.