May is a traditional time to commemorate armed services members and their sacrifices

May is a traditional time to commemorate armed services members and their sacrifices

By Joan Fudala

The month of May gives Scottsdalians several opportunities to commemorate those who have served their country: the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8, Armed Forces Day on May 16 and Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day) on May 25. As a town founded by wounded Civil War veteran Chaplain/Maj. Winfield Scott, Scottsdale has continuously honored its military, past and present, especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Consider these places, groups and events that have honored our military and the fallen:

Camelback Cemetery

Since its establishment circa 1915, Camelback Cemetery on McDonald Road west of Scottsdale Road has been the final resting place for veterans of all wars, including the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. Camelback, as well as Double Butte Cemetery in Tempe (established in 1888), were the sites of the town’s first Decoration Day ceremonies and visits by family members honoring their loved ones and neighbors.

Post 44 of the American Legion

On May 13, 1935, veterans of World War I formed Post 44 of the American Legion in Scottsdale. Gathering in homes, school buildings and churches, the charter members of Post 44 represented a cross-section of Scottsdale life in the 1930s. Among them were Carlton Lutes, the rural mail carrier; Garrett Musgrove, the Scottsdale High custodian; Fred Mathis, Baptist minister; Jack Troutmiller, McDowell Road farmer; Walter Jennings, service station operator; and 12 others. They began conducting ceremonies at Camelback Cemetery on McDonald Road to honor Scottsdale veterans of the Spanish-American and Great Wars, a solemn duty the Post 44 honor guard continues today on Memorial and Veterans days. This spring, Post 44 celebrates its 80th anniversary, making it the oldest, continuously operating civic organization in Scottsdale.

Thunderbird II Airfield

On May 8, 1945, the headlines of The Arizona Republic screamed “V E Day Is Proclaimed by Truman as Germany Quits,” while a front-page article stated a “quiet day planned for city.” The newspaper reported that local businesses would be closed and churches would hold services. Of Scottsdale’s two wartime military installations, Thunderbird II Airfield (now the Scottsdale Airport/Airpark) had already closed in October 1944 after training 5,500 aviation cadets but the Papago Prisoner of War Camp remained open, holding German POWs who would soon be repatriated.

Sipe-Peterson Post 44

To honor two of Scottsdale’s fallen from World War II—Travis Sipe and Clayton Peterson—Post 44 adopted the name Sipe-Peterson Post 44 of the American Legion, and dedicated the post’s new building on First Street in their memory in May 1948. In 1994, Sipe-Peterson Post 44, American Legion moved into a new building on Second Street just west of Scottsdale Road where its more than 1,000 members and affiliate organizations meet today.

Post 3513 VFW

Post 3513, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) was chartered in 1946. The VFW also honored a Scottsdale casualty from World War II, naming its new group and its building on Wells Fargo in memory of Stanley Crews. The Stanley Crews Post 3513 VFW hall is now located at 7220 E. Wilshire Dr., just east of Scottsdale Road.

Scottsdale Honor Grove

In 1968, the Village Tillers Garden Club planted a carob tree in the Scottsdale Honor Grove in Eldorado Park in commemoration of men and women from Scottsdale serving in the armed forces. According to the Scottsdale Progress, the grove “east of the swimming pool and south of the lake is steadily growing with trees donated by individuals and organizations. Recently a pepper tree was planted by the Scottsdale Republican Woman’s Club.”

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Since its opening in October 1975, the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park has been a gathering point for community veterans observances and memorials. The park—founded by World War II U.S. Navy veteran Guy Stillman and his parents, the McCormicks—was partially built by volunteers from local reserve and National Guard units. In October 1974, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Company D, 6th Engineer Battalion dedicated a plaque and the flagpole at the park “to the men…who fell during the Korean Conflict when the company was called to the colors and to those who contributed their labor to complete this railroad park for the benefit of children of all ages.”

Through the efforts of Scottsdale civic leader Zina Kuhn, a naturalized U.S. citizen who served in the Polish Army during World War II, Arizona’s Gratitude Train Car was restored and dedicated at the railroad park in 1989. The boxcar was one of 49 filled with gifts from the residents of France to thank Americans in every state for their post-World War II generosity toward the French people during the war recovery. The City of Scottsdale began its annual Veterans Day ceremony in 1989 at the dedication of the Gratitude Train Car. At the 2014 Veterans Day event at the park, the Garden Club of Scottsdale dedicated a Blue Star Memorial Marker, honoring servicemen and servicewomen.

Plaque at Civic Center Mall

In celebration of the nation’s bicentennial on July 4, 1976, Scottsdale Mayor Bill Jenkins and representatives from Post 44 of the American Legion, Post 3513 of the VFW and the Scottsdale chapter of the Disabled American Veterans dedicated a plaque and planted a tree honoring those who served in America’s wars. Located on the east side of Civic Center Mall near The Saguaro hotel (the Doubletree Inn in 1976), the plaque still stands today and reads, “In memory and history of Scottsdale…from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, and we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Veterans Heritage Project

Since its inception in 2004 at Cactus Shadows High School, the Veterans Heritage Project has matched high school students with area veterans to document their war stories for posterity. Now a nonprofit organization with 23 chapters throughout Arizona and the United States, the Veterans Heritage Project and student members continue to interview veterans and annually produce a book of their stories, “Since You Asked…” They send copies of their interviews to the Library of Congress for inclusion in the national Veterans History Project. For information, visit

The Chaplain

In 2009, members of the local American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts raised money and dedicated a sculpture to the City of Scottsdale and Scottsdale’s Public Art Program. Dubbed “The Chaplain,” the bronze statue depicts a World War I chaplain. It was created by artist Austin Deuel, a U.S. Marine Corps combat artist during the Vietnam War. The City of Scottsdale now hosts Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies at the site northeast of Scottsdale City Hall, co-hosted by local veterans organizations.

Scottsdale Memorial to the Fallen

A group of Scottsdale veterans, historians and interested citizens is currently raising funds to establish a memorial that will be erected near The Chaplain statue at Scottsdale City Hall. The Scottsdale Memorial to the Fallen will honor, by name, those Scottsdale-area residents who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. armed services.

National Memorial Cemetery

In addition to Camelback Cemetery, Green Acres Cemetery (on Hayden Road between McDowell and McKellips roads) and Paradise Memorial Gardens (at 9300 E. Shea Blvd.) are the final resting places for numerous veterans, and assist families in providing appropriate military honors for loved ones. The National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona (located at 23029 N. Cave Creek Rd.) was dedicated in 1978 to serve all veterans; it is operated by the Veterans Administration. It holds Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, and is usually the site of the “Wreaths Across America” event in December.

For those wishing to honor loved ones or to pay tribute to the many who have served their country, Scottsdale-area veterans organizations, schools, churches, civic organizations, libraries and other organizations will be holding a full calendar of events this May to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe, Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day. Check local media or websites for information on places, times and dates.