Ed Mangan was just out of high school in Illinois when he first answered his country’s call to service in 1961.
And while 38 years have passed since he left the U.S. Air Force, the Ahwatukee man hasn’t stopped serving – or wearing his uniform proudly.
Commander of Ahwatukee’s American Legion Post 64, Mangan is celebrating a special accolade as he prepares for Veterans Day this Saturday.
He was inducted last month into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame, becoming one of only about 300 of the estimated 522,000 former military men and women in the state to be accorded that honor.
“I am so honored to get that award – 23 veterans selected out of 600,000 in Arizona. Wow,” he said, referring to the number of Hall of Fame inductees this year.
Though he was not involved in direct enemy action, Mangan was impacted by Agent Orange while serving during the Vietnam War at bases in Thailand and Vietnam, where he serviced planes and helicopters as an avionics technician and aircraft maintenance officer.
But that hasn’t stopped the father of two daughters from giving back to his brothers and sisters in arms or his community.
Mangan has been involved in Ahwatukee’s American Legion for 15 years, serving as its color guard commander from 2005 until last year, when he stepped up to post commander.
A member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, he represents the Military Officers Association of America, works with the Junior ROTC chapters in four high schools, serves as state military outreach director Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program and is public relations co-chair for the Arizona Wall Project under construction in Gilbert.
He has watched with pride as the Post 64 continues to grow to a current 192 members. “It’s been going up nicely,” he said.
Mangan joined the Air Force largely because one of his best friends at the time was enlisting.
Though his family at the time had no military tradition in its history, it does now. He and two of his three brothers served and with grandchildren and nieces and nephews, 28 family veterans are either veterans or in active service.
He looks fondly at his military service, grateful for the fact that he saw parts of the world he might never have seen and that he learned a trade that made him successful in the energy efficiency industry for 30 years.
“I had some nice assignments,” he said of his Air Force days. “I enjoyed it.”
Mangan still serves in the color guard, leading the formal salutes to the flag that open many public engagements and celebrations in and around Ahwatukee and honoring veterans at their funerals.
The American flag holds a special place in his heart.
Besides his work with the color guard, he also participates in a program that teaches the flag’s history at school assemblies and other group events. That program uses 12 flags to show how it has evolved since the American Revolution.
The Ahwatukee Post is only one of no more than a dozen American Legion chapters in Arizona that has a color guard, out of hundreds of posts in the state.
And it consumes considerable time even just organizing an appearance, since color guards require four uniformed personnel and coordinating schedules can be challenging, he said.
“It’s difficult to get people together sometimes because you have to have two flags and two rifles,” he said. “I like to have five instead of four people. But when there’s four, the person carrying the American flag is the commander by default.”
“I always thought the color guard commander had the busiest assignment,” Mangan said. “To me it was more time consuming than being commander.”
Commanding the post has its challenges as well, given the number of charitable and other activities that members are involved in.
Currently he is working with two other Legionnaires, Pete Meier and Doug Patterson, on the post’s annual golf tournament/dinner on Dec. 16 at Legacy Golf Club in Phoenix.
“We are looking for items that can be used in our raffle. If your donation is of a larger value, we will use it in our live auction to raise more money. Of course, money donations are always appreciated,” organizers said.
Donors and tournament participants can contact 602-690-3361 or email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-791-6843 or at email@example.com or 602-501-0128. Entry in the 18-hole tournament is $85, which includes dinner. A dinner guest is an additional $15.
The tournament is one of the legion post’s main source of revenue since it doesn’t have a bar and dining room like many Legion posts maintain. Instead, it meets at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center.
The programs that Post 64 members participate in include support for military and veteran hospitality rooms at Sky Harbor Airport, sending care packages to military personnel in Iran and Afghanistan, helping homeless vets in the Phoenix area and working with middle and high school students.
When asked if Saturday will be a busy day, Mangan replied, “this whole month is busy” with special activities honoring military veterans.
But Mangan doesn’t mind. He welcomes the opportunity to keep serving.