Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Announces 2019 Parade Grand Marshals

Honoring America’s Veterans (HAV) is announcing the following Grand Marshals for the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ashby, World War II. U.S. Air Force (Sun City West, AZ): A Tuskegee airman and first black captain for Frontier Airlines, Robert Ashby was born July 17, 1926 in Yemassee, SC. As a cadet he flew the Stearman PT-17, AT-6, and the B-25. Ashby graduated as a second lieutenant with the Tuskegee Class of 45-H on November 20, 1945. After. President Harry S. Truman integrated the armed forces, and Ashby was assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in August 1949 for a short tour. Later, he was assigned to a Reserve Troop Carrier Wing at Cleveland Municipal Airport. Here he trained in the T-6 and C-46 aircraft. In 1952, Ashby flew B-26’s for a year of combat in Korea while stationed at K-8. In 1956, in England, Ashby flew the T-33, B-45 and B-66. He trained in the B-47 aircraft and became a B-47 instructor. Reaching the status of Lieutenant Colonel, Robert Ashby retired honorably from the U.S. Air Force in July 1965, after 21 years of fighting racial problems as well as the enemies of America.
  • Captain William Leasure, Korean War, U.S. Air Force (City, AZ): William “Bill” Leasure joined the United States Air Force in June 1954 and served 5 years as an Armament System Officer. During his time in the United States Air Force, Captain Leasure served in Colorado where he was involved in testing the F111, one of the newest and most technological advanced aircraft of its time. He was directly involved in the testing of this new aircraft and was a member of a team of brave pilots and crewmen who worked on the many bugs associated with F-111 until it was deemed “fit to fly”. During Captain Leasure’s time in service he served alongside numerous proud and dedicated patriots and is proud of his time in service. Captain Leasure believes that the training he and his comrades received was the best in the world and attributes his training and experience in United Sates Air Force for many of the successes he has had over his lifetime.
  • Staff Sergeant William Tafoya, Vietnam, U.S. Army (Goodyear, AZ): Bill Tafoya is an Arizona native, born in Winslow, and moved to Tempe when he was 12. He volunteered to join the U.S. Army when he was 17. Following training, he was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska, with the 1st Battalion, 47th Infantry, where he was assigned to Ski Patrol. After a short period of time, he was shipped to Hawaii for tropical training and then joined the 25th Infantry Division. The 25th was assigned to Cu Chi, a dense jungle portion of Vietnam, that was thick with Viet Cong. As a high school student, Bill was disappointed he was not large enough to be accepted to the football team. Yet he found in Vietnam, due to his smaller size, the 25th had just the right job that he qualified for, and this was as a “Tunnel Rat”. The Viet Cong had extensive and elaborate tunnels in Vietnam. It took just the right volunteer to enter these tunnels, mostly crawling on their stomach in such a tiny space, with a flashlight in one hand, and a weapon in the other, in order to root out the enemy. Spending two years in Vietnam with the 25th, he was awarded many decorations, medals, badges and commendations. Among these awards are the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Rifle, three Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. Bill was awarded the Bronze Star for rendering aid to his squad after entering a mine field. Afterwards, Bill himself stepped onto a trip wire and reinforcements were able to extract him before it blew. Bill is very proud of his military service, the strong bonds that are only formed in a combat situation. Bill refers to them as “my brothers” and he will never forget those that gave their lives.
  • Master Sergeant Norbert “Dave” Yanez, (Air Force), Cold War, U.S. Air Force (Peoria, AZ): Dave was born and raised in Globe Arizona. Being one of 18 members of Dave’s family to serve in the United States military, it was just an easy decision when his friend suggested that they join the U.S. Air Force. His service spanned 23 years, rising to the rank of Master Sergeant. Dave’s service started during the Cold War and included service in England, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ during the Cuba Missile Crisis, Southeast Asia, (Vietnam and Thailand) and Panama. His many military occupations include a wide variety of skills. Dave started out as an Air Policeman, during that time he was a military police dog handler for four years, a T.I., Air Force drill instructor, then cross trained into the education and training career field. He was the Non-commissioned officer in charge of the curriculum section of the Inter-American Air Force Academy in Panama. Dave’s many awards and decorations include; Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation with three oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation with four oak leaf clusters, Vietnam Service Medal with four campaign stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry cross with palm and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. Dave is 80 years young and continues to donate his time and talents to; American Red Cross (Luke AFB, 56th Medical Group), Glendale Police Department, Volunteer In Police Services, (VIPS), DUET of Arizona (volunteers helping assist seniors in their daily life needs), and was the coordinator for Luna/Stalls Memorial, raising $280,000 over 10 year span.
  • Private First-Class Robert Sims, Desert Storm, U.S. Marine Corps (Casa Grand, AZ): Robert “Bobby” Sims was “a small kid from Mammoth, Arizona” when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at 18 years old. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 11th Marine, 1st Marine Division, and served aboard USS Germantown, USS Frederick, and USS Belleau Wood. He vividly recalled a morning in February of 1991, he stepped off the flight deck, and into a rare sight on the mess decks: steak and eggs for breakfast!? Immediately, he knew something big was about to happen. With Scud missiles flying overhead, he realized, “We’re in it now!” Sims didn’t talk much about his time on the battlefield, but according to the unit’s website, the 1st MarDiv “destroyed the enemy in its path as it led the breakthrough to Kuwait City.” Sims earned a Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Mast, and other decorations. Robert Sims is now a Sergeant in the Gila River Police Department
  • Sergeant Ashley Marshall, Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Army (Mesa, AZ): Ashley is the definition of Army Strong. Even when faced with hardships and the unthinkable, she pushes forward and is still such a kind and loving person.” Ashley Marshall said one of her older brothers is probably the reason she enlisted. He was already in the Army, but said, “It’d be too difficult for her. It was game on!” He advised her to “pick an easy MOS, not anything like Military Police (MP).” So, right out of high school, she went to basic, with plans to become a 31B–yes, an MP! Ashley barely turned 19 when she was sent to Baghdad in 2005. She quickly proved herself on the battlefield. While on patrol as a turret gunner just outside Camp Taji, Ashley’s HMMWV hit an IED. She was knocked out until they returned to the Forward Operating Base (FOB). In a second close-call, a truck was hit by an RPG. Marshall received the Combat Action Badge, two Army Commendations, and other military decorations. Ashley advanced to Sergeant (E5) by the end of her enlistments, got married and enrolled in Arizona State University, where she earned a Bachelors. Ashley is now a coordinator for the Veterans Upward Bound at ASU, and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Petty Officer First Class Christopher Oshana, Operation Restore Hope, U.S. Navy (Goodyear, AZ): Christopher “Boats” Oshana was born in Bristol, Connecticut. At age 14 he was fascinated by the Seabees depicted in his father’s WWII Time-Life books and instantly knew that military life on the sea was for him. Upon graduation in 1984, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and has never regretted his decision. After graduating from Basic Training at the Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, he reported for his first duty aboard the USS Sylvania. He later transferred to the Fleet Combat Training Center in Virginia where he became a military working dog handler, sniffing out bombs and other threats. Chris then became a boatswain (hence his nickname, “Boats”) and served on the USS El Paso, followed by deployment to the Mediterranean Sea during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. When deployed for Operation Restore Hope in December 1992, “Boats” acted at a Causeway Barge Ferry Pilot to support the multi-national humanitarian aid effort in Somalia, by carrying necessary equipment, fuel, vehicles and combat cargo for the Marine Expeditionary Force on the ground. Other duty stations included the USS Puget Sound, the USS Tortuga, the Amphibious Construction Battalion Two and lastly, the Navy Recruiting District in Phoenix. After 20 years of dedicated service, Oshana crossed the quarterdeck for the last time, retiring from Naval service in 2004 with the rank of Boatswain Mate, 1st Class Petty Officer. The recipient of many medals and ribbons, he is particularly proud of earning the Southwest Asia Expeditionary and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medals.

We are also pleased to announce that M*A*S*H* star Loretta Swit will be the 2019 Celebrity Grand Marshal.

Celebrity Grand Marshal Loretta Swit: Actress, singer, and dancer Loretta Swit will commemorate our nation’s veterans in this year’s parade. Swit embraces the true compassion of animal advocacy and as such is striving to bring all Military K9 Working Dogs home from overseas. Working with HAV and the Military Working Dog parade entry, Swit will serve as Celebrity Grand Marshal to bring more attention to our veterans.

The Veterans Grand Marshals will participate in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 in Central Phoenix. The Phoenix Veterans Day Parade has been billed as one of the largest in spectator attendance across the country and is now in its 23rd year. The parade is presented by Honoring Arizona’s Veterans, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to honor and recognize those military service members who have served our country.

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