2 attractions offer veterans a stirring tribute

By Mike Phillips

No matter when or where you served, if you are a veteran, chances are that experience left lasting impressions.

Military service helps shape our character and our views of the world. It also does something more profound – it ties us to something larger than ourselves. One way or another, we leave military service but we never really leave those experiences or the people we served with behind.

There are dozens of organizations in the Valley dedicated to veterans or assisting veterans. They form a network of support and fellowship for those in need or for those who want to give back.

That’s what this column is about. It’s a clearinghouse of information about Valley veteran events, activities and accomplishments. The goal is to provide you with information you can use to get help, give help or just rekindle the ties and camaraderie we felt while serving in the military.

The goal is also to share the information you have about veterans and the military. If your organization is hosting an event, launching a program or activity or celebrating an accomplishment, please send details to AzVetsToday@gmail.com. Include a contact name and phone number.

With Veterans Day and the Marine Corps Birthday, November was obviously an event-packed month for military vets. Here are a few destinations worth checking out any month:

Scottsdale dedicates World War II memorial

World War II changed the Valley in many ways. One was the construction in 1942 of several airfields to train fighter pilots. Those airfields, built in the rural deserts, would evolve to become familiar airports and centers of economic activity.

One was Scottsdale Airport. Visitors have a new opportunity to learn about its origins as a military base, the pilots who trained there and the workhorse airplanes they flew.

The Thunderbird Field II Veterans Memorial was dedicated Nov. 3. It serves as the gateway to Scottsdale’s new Aviation Business Center. The central focus of the memorial is an actual Stearman PT-17 Biplane, the plane used to train the 5,500 soldiers who earned their wings in Scottsdale and went on to see action in both the Pacific and European theaters.

The memorial and center are located at 15000 N. Airport Drive. It’s a beautiful venue where you can spend a few moments soaking in history and reflecting on those brave souls who trained here and helped win World War II. You can learn more at www.tbird2.org

Portraits of Courage exhibit open in Tempe

There is a unique veterans’ exhibit on display through Dec. 29 at the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park.

Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors brings together 66 color portraits and a four-panel mural painted by President George W. Bush. The exhibit depicts 98 veterans who have served our nation with honor since 9/11, and whom the President Bush has come to know personally since leaving office.

Each painting is accompanied by the inspiring story of the warrior depicted, written by President Bush.

The Papago Park center is one of just four venues nationwide selected to host the paintings this year. The exhibit is hosted by the Arizona Historical Society and the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute. The exhibit is on loan from the George W. Bush Institute.

The center, located at 1300 N. College Ave., is open every day except Sunday. Admission is free for active military and veterans. To learn hours and other admission prices, visit portraitsofcourageaz.org

– Mike Phillips of Gilbert is a Marine Corps veteran and the retired communications chief for the City of Scottsdale.