While many of their counterparts will be matching in Mesa or Phoenix, members of Ahwatukee’s only military service organization will be marking Veterans Day weekend in a bit less crowded atmosphere.
The American Legion Post 64 Color Guard – often a frequent feature at public events around the community – will be at the car show and pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Shoppes at Casa Paloma on Ray Road just across the I-10.
Legionnaires also will be presenting their program, titled “Evolution of the Flag,” at a Mesa elementary school and at a meeting of the Ahwatukee Recreation Center Women’s Club on Monday. The color guard also will be opening the ARC’s annual arts and crafts fair Nov. 17.
Post 64 Commander Pete Meier said that the Ahwatukee unit figures that the East Valley and Phoenix parades have all the color guards they can handle, allowing local members to mark the day in different ways.
The post also is still working on its major fundraiser of the – its annual golf Dec. 7. The funds it raises helps the post conduct a variety of activities throughout the year. Members have been working for months lining up sponsors as well as players and gifts, and still could use more help. They can contact email@example.com or 602-791-6843 if they want to help the post.
Veterans organizations nationally have wrestled with declining interest by younger men and women who have completed their military service, and the Ahwatukee post is no different.
“I think when people first get out, they’re kind of burned out on the military,” said Meier, a local Realtor who served actively in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe between 1965-68 and also served inactive after that until 1971.
“We’re starting to see people who served in the Gulf War and Iraq,” he added. “We’re happy to see them. They’re in their 50s and a lot of us are in our 70s, they’re computer literate and they can help us.”
The post is notified when a local resident has left the service and sends each veteran an invitation. Former military members who want to know more about Post 64 can contact Meier at 602-690-3361.
The color guard and many other Post 64 members participate in a number of local and regional patriotic and community celebrations over the year, including the Memorial Day services at the National Cemetery in Cave Creek and the Easter parade sponsored by the Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club.
For Ahwatukee residents who want to still see a parade and salute veterans next weekend, both major parades are Monday.
The Honoring Arizona’s Veterans Phoenix Veterans Day Parade – the fourth largest in attendance in the nation – will be at 11 a.m., starting at Montebello and Central avenues and running southbound and to the east on Camelback Road, south on Seventh Street and de-staging at Indian School Road.
“To me, the importance of the event is way it helps our veterans. There’s something special about the honor and recognition they receive from the parade that helps them heal and that helps them transition back to their civilian life, which is really important to our community,” said Phoenix Veterans Day Parade coordinator Paula Pedene.
The East Valley Veterans Parade also starts at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Center Street and University Drive in Mesa.
Participants in that parade will notice a familiar yet new face looking at them from signs and floats – a bald gentleman sporting a large nose and peering over the top of a wall.
That’s the face of Kilroy, the iconic graffiti character who came to popularity during World War II. Next to his image is usually found the phrase, “Kilroy Was Here,” which quickly became synonymous with the service, dedication and commitment of U.S. Armed Forces.
Kilroy is possibly the first viral meme, long before there was even such a thing as social media. Throughout every combat, training or occupation operation during WWII and the Korean War, Kilroy always got there first and left last. His simple outline caught the imagination of GIs wherever they went.
While his true origin is debated, many historians agree that the saying most likely came from a worker at a shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts.
James A. Kilroy was a rivet inspector, paid by the number of rivets he checked and recorded each day with chalk marks on the machinery itself. To make sure no one else tried to take credit for his work, he began inscribing “Kilroy was here” onto the machinery.
Ships were desperately needed during WWII, so most were put into service before the workers’ marks were painted over. American GIs began noticing the phrase scrawled on outgoing ships, often tucked into hard-to-reach areas.
GIs began tagging the places they visited in war theaters in Europe, Asia and Africa. They attached the character drawing with the saying sometime early in the war, probably based on a popular English cartoon.
It quickly became a competition to place Kilroy in the most unusual places, including top-secret military installations, bases and battlefields. Every surface imaginable became an opportunity to draw this simple cartoon. The original cartoons were drawn with whatever could be found at hand, from chalk to pencil to pen, and provided encouragement and comfort to embattled soldiers.
Today, you can find Kilroy etched in stone in two places near the Pennsylvania pillar of the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. reminding veterans that Kilroy is still with GIs when they are in harm’s way.