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.
We hope you will join us at the 22nd Annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade on Monday, November 12, 2017, to see all our Grand Marshals. This year’s parade theme is “OUT OF THE TRENCHES: A Century of Remembrance – WWI 1918.” The parade typically boasts more than 100 entries, and this year will have a special float with nearly 20 Vietnam Veterans riding on it. The parade will also feature patriotic floats, high school marching bands, JROTC marching units, color guards, Veterans Service Organizations, animals, novelty units and much, much more.
For more information on the parade and the parade route, click HERE.