2015 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshals
Captain, Ex Prisoner of War, U.S. Air Force
Vietnam Veteran Grand Marshal
Among the first prisoners of war released by the North Vietnamese following the ceasefire in Indochina was at the time U.S. Air Force Captain Larry J. Chesley a highly decorated veteran with over 40 awards and decorations including 2 Silver Stars for gallantry, the third highest military decoration.
Chesley was a prisoner for almost seven years. He had been in Vietnam for four months and flew 76 combat missions when his aircraft was shot down and he was captured.
“I was a prisoner for 2,494 days, almost six years and ten months. The thing that really kept me going was my family, knowing that they loved me and that they cared for me.”
Chesley said that he was on an early evening mission over southern North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit. I was captured immediately, but it took 21 days for the North Vietnamese to get me to Hanoi. I remained in that area most of the time I was a prisoner. It took a long time to get to Hanoi because we only traveled at night, in trucks over bad roads.
“At the beginning I was in a room by myself, but later, as more prisoners moved into the camp, we began sharing prison space. Even when we were individually confined we would hold church services together. With the person on the other side of the wall, I would kneel and we would say the Lordâ€™s Prayer or the Twenty-third Psalm together, and then the pledge of allegiance to the United States.
“As more prisoners came into the camp, we were able to get together as a group for church services. We had a mixture of faiths thereâ€”Jews, Protestants, Catholics, and Mormonsâ€”and we took turns in presenting sermons. They were some of the most inspiring services I have ever heard.
“We shared something in common; we had a belief in God, and we had a belief in our country and in our leaders. When these boys come back and give thanks for their country, they really mean it. It was a sustaining influence in our lives.
Chesley said when they got in a big room the men asked him to be the Chaplain and that for use in the nondenominational church services the prisoners held, he made a cross out of a red towel and some handkerchiefs sewn together using a homemade needle and thread pulled from a blanket.
“That cross was uplifting for many of the men, and we would hang it up every time we met together for our church services. That towel and cross is now in the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio.
Chesley went on to serve for 22 years in the Air Force and retired at the rank of Lt. Colonel. He said that if there was one thing that sustained him during his seven-year ordeal, it was his family.
“Just to know that they loved me was a great strength.”
Signal Corp Sergant, U.S. Army
World War II Veteran Grand Marshal
Hear Chester Dorr’s interview on KTAR
Born and raised in Chicago. IL. Chester Dorr enlisted in the Army November 21, 1942 and did his basic training at Camp Grant Illinois specializing in Communications. This was at the height of World War II, when many Americans were enlisting to serve their country.
While deployed, Dorr served in Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. His decorations include:, Silver Battle Star European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon, Merit Unit Award, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Service Stripe and Overseas Service Bars.
“When I was stationed at various units in the War, I earned the Silver Battle Star for the five battles I was engaged in, including landing on the beach at Normandy in the D-Day invasion. When our crew was in the landing craft on the way to Normandy, we became seasick on the way over because it was a very choppy and miserable ride. But what I did see was something. I never saw so many boats and airplanes converging in one place. On the ocean, as far as you could see, ships were lined up bumper to bumper. Looking overhead, the sky was black with planes. We crashed into others before we could land so our journey was delayed.
Once we hit the beach though, we dug foxholes and lived there for days. Our clothing was covered with a protective lotion in case of a gas attack. From that point forward we just followed General Patton who was traveling so fast, we had problems keeping up with him. I went from France to Germany to Belgium and back to Germany. There was a lot of challenges along the way – seeing bombed out buildings and more – that I can still see in my mind to this day. Fortunately, we made it through. I consider the invasion of Normandy to be one of the most brilliant, strategical moves I was able to participate in,” says Dorr.
After his Honorable Discharge December 11, 1945, Dorr married his high school sweetheart and they remained together for 69 years until Mildred’s passing in 2013 at age 92. He worked for AT&T Communications for 38 years and they had two boys, Jim and Tom who also live in Phoenix. He is a proud grandparent and great grandpa and resides in Peoria, AZ.
At 95 years young, Dorr is still sharp as a tack and shares his WWII stories whenever given the opportunity.
According to his eldest son Jim, “Being one of the Grand Marshall’s in the Veterans Day Parade is the ultimate honor for this patriotic Veteran.”
Aviator, Commander, U.S. Navy
World War II Veteran Grand Marshal
When Gerald Huffman joined the Navy in June of 1942, the United States was very involved in support of the war effort. Most men who were physically able, were signing up for military service. “I wasn’t particularly interested in Aviation, but a friend convinced me to go with him to the Naval Aviation Cadet Selection Board. I was there to accompany my friend. The instructor suggested that I also take the test. I was 19 at the time, I passed and my friend didn’t. That was the beginning of my Navy career,” he says.
Huffman earned his wings, and spent time in the Pacific during World War II as a Fighter Pilot. He had some interesting experiences, including being a part of the initial attack which sank the world’s largest Japanese battle ship Yamato. Yamato was the lead ship of the class of Imperial Japanese Navy World War II battleships. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, The US strike against the Yamato and her accompanying ships involved approximately 400 planes and Huffman was on the team that led the successful effort.
Prior to and during the invasion of Iwo Jima, Huffman participated in strikes against Japanese shipping , airfields and military installations in the vicinity of Tokyo, Iwo Jima and mainland Japan. These targets were selected to help minimize the threats to U.S. Troops in the invasion force.
Following Iwo Jima, preparations were underway for the invasion and occupancy of Okinawa. This island complex was 350 miles from Japan and was selected by the U.S. for operations in support of the proposed invasion of Japan. Okinawa became one of the longest and costliest battles of the Pacific Theater. U.S. forces sustained 49,000 casualties with 12,320 killed. Japanese losses were double that. Huffman made attacks on Japanese troop positions prior to, during and after the invasion, spreading napalm, strafing equipment and seeking out targets of opportunity. He flew 30 strikes against airfields and military installations in Japan that were supporting the attempt to repel the U.S.A capture of Okinawa.
For his extraordinary heroism in combat during WWII, Huffman earned the Navy Cross, the second highest medal of military service. This award was presented for his attack on an enemy aircraft carrier. He shot down in flames an enemy fighter plane and in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire, Huffman scored two direct armor piercing rocket hits which caused serious damage to the flight deck of the Japanese warship.
Huffman, who resides in Fountain Hills, also holds the Silver Star Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and eight Air Medals. He retired from the Navy after 25 years of service with the rank of Commander. Like many of the Parade Veteran Grand Marshals who represent their comrades, Huffman is much honored to be selected.
U.S. Marine Corps
Semper Fidelis Grand Marshal
Gerry Jones, was born during The Great Depression on a farm in northern Indiana. He went to work on the night shift at 11 years old, operating a bakery slicing and wrapping machine and at the age of 13 he left home to seek permanent work. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Gerry joined the Marine Corps spending six years as a Sergeant in the First Marine Division during World War II and Korea. In WWII he fought as a Scout Sniper against the Japanese, was wounded in action, and rehabilitated in China.
Between the end of WWII and the beginning of the Korean War, while living in China Gerry was studying with three Chinese Martial Artists, who were the top title holders in the world. Here he became adept in Martial Arts. The civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists, forced Gerry to leave China when the Communists won. He returned to the U.S. in 1949.
In 1950, the Marine Corps called Gerry back to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, to teach Marines Martial Arts.
When the Korean War was over, Gerry left the Marine Corps and moved to Arizona.
“I had become interested in mountain architecture while living in China. I taught myself architecture and residential structural engineering, focusing on extreme terrain architecture.”
Gerry returned to North China in 1982 to lecture, and ran a business there until 1996. He became interested in Oriental Transitional Art and has a large collection of Contemporary Chinese Art. He has done much motorcycle riding alone throughout the North American continent.
He is an architectural designer, who has designed and built 319 houses on extreme mountain terrain and has been in this business for 63 years. He also taught extreme terrain architecture at Taliesin for 17 years. He resides in Carefree, AZ.
In Sept. 2015 Gerry was honored to receive the Semper Fidelis award from the U.S. Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, a cause he seriously supports.
Gerry attributes whatever he has achieved, both physically and mentally, in a long, varied and self-taught life to his Marine Corps experience—hard physical and mental work with a never-ending search for knowledge.
84th Engineering Construction Battalion
Corporal, U.S. Army
Korean War Veteran Grand Marshal
Hear Nelson Ladd’s interview on KTAR
Nelson Ladd is proud to say going to war made a man out of him. “When I was drafted in Wichita at age 20, I was a snot-nosed kid. When I got out, I was grown up.”
Ladd completed Infantry Basic and Combat Engineering Basic Training in 1952. Then, assigned to the U.S. Army’s 84th Engineering Construction Battalion, Corporal Ladd was shipped to the front lines. Working side-by-side with South Koreans, the GI’s helped build the ‘George Libby Bridge,’ named in honor of the war’s first Medal of Honor Recipient. It spans the Imjin River, which crosses the 38th Parallel.
Ladd also helped clear landmines in Panmunjom, and was there for the signing of the Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, as well as the exchange of thousands of prisoners of war. In November 1953, he and some other soldiers were sent to Pusan to assist tens of thousands of Korean refugees displaced, once by war, then by fire.
He was awarded the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Campaign Medal with one Bronze Star, along with the United Nations Medal and other decorations. For him, this War is far from forgotten: “There are still more than seven thousand troops missing.”
“When the North invaded the South, it was a decision to stop communismâ€”it had invaded a peaceful country. We went to save a small democracy, and I’m glad we did it.”
He admits he had personal struggles after leaving the military. “I didn’t like where I was, so I changed it. I saved $7,000, and I was able to buy land. That was the first step toward a successful venture in real estate development.”
The best part of his service turned out to be the GI Bill. He used it to earn a Bachelors, then Master’s Degree in Physics at Wichita University. He enjoyed a long career as a physicist which included work on components for the Apollo spacecraft, the SR 71 (Blackbird) and other aerospace projects. In September 2013, Ladd was invited to return to South Korea, where he and his wife Bette toured the Demilitarized Zone, and visited memorials. Among the list of fallen heroes, he saw names of high school classmates. Later, he and other war veterans were bussed to Daegu Military Academy. By jeep, they paraded past the cadets, and were showered with flowers. “I thought I was Patton for a while,” joked Ladd.
Ladd resides in Phoenix and is active in the West Valley Chapter of Korean War Veterans. Korean American author, Susan Kee called him “one of the most dedicated and devoted Korean War Veterans I know.” The two met at a West Valley Chapter meeting, where Ladd presented Kee with a copy of his publication of the “Korean Defender.”
Charles F. Marshall
First Class Petty Officer – Missile Technician
Cold War Grand Marshal
Charles “Chick” Marshall says he feels humbled to be nominated to be a Marshal in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. “I hope people understand that Cold War Veterans were at the forefront of deterrence against Nuclear Warfare.”
His nominator, daughter Amy Satterfield says, “I am very proud of my father’s Navy service and afterward his service to the country. He’s a true Renaissance man.”
Marshall enlisted in 1961 and was honorably discharged as a First Class Petty Officer-Missile Technician (SS) in 1969. He was responsible for handling, loading, repairing and launching intercontinental ballistic missiles. While aboard the Submarine USS James Madison (SSBN 627), Marshall deployed on eight stealth patrols in the North Atlantic, including the seas above the Arctic Circle. Marshall earned his “Dolphins” in 1965 signifying he had the knowledge and skills for all phases of submarine operations. “With the small number of crew members it was important every sailor knew the fundamentals of every watch station. Submariners are a close knit group highly dependent on each other.”
During the “war patrols” Missile launch alerts were frequently sent to the submarine to assure the crew readiness. Almost all were only a test drill, and none ended in a retaliatory launch.” Marshall’s service was “Just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and during the significant years of increasing Soviet Union aggression. The patrols lasted as much as 70 days without surfacing. He recalls how contact with the outside world was extremely limited. Each crew member could receive three 15-word “family grams” during patrols, and strict radio silence prevented any response back to the sender. This was even true to bad news. Sometimes, it could be a death in the family or occasionally the sender would “code” the message and end a relationship. Like, “Uncle Jim came to town. We sold the house, and we have moved to California.” Translation: “I met someone. When you get back, I won’t be there.” We paid a lot of attention to our role in maintaining world order.” A reality Marshall points out is, “Sailors are out there today in submarines patrolling the oceans. Deterrence is still needed and the dedication and sacrifice of all cold war veterans must be appreciated.”
Marshall says his time in uniform impacted his future in so many ways. “It set the foundation for my whole civilian career. In 1972 I earned an engineering degree, and became a rocket scientist,” working for McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed Martin on new ICBM and Advanced Space Launch Technology programs. Fortunately for Marshall, his wife Mary was there through six patrols. “Mary has her own sea stories.” They’ve been married for 50 years, and have a son and daughter and five grandchildren. Now retired Marshall lives in Goodyear and volunteers for civic, homeowner associations and political party election committees.
Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Reserve
Desert Storm Grand Marshal
Sergeant Major Harold Pauletich is a native Arizonan and enlisted in the US Army Reserve on February 14, 1964 at the suggestion of a friend.
He was assigned to the 6251st US Army Hospital and trained as a medical repair technician. Later, he was selected to be a part of the newly activated 403d Combat Support Hospital located in Phoenix, Arizona. While a member of the 403d CSH, he performed several humanitarian medical missions to Venezuela and Honduras.
Pauletich was First Sergeant of the 403d Combat Support Hospital, whose members were doctors, nurses and enlisted personnel mostly from Arizona, when it was activated for the Gulf War. The 403d CSH was deployed to the Neutral Zone, separating Saudi Arabia and Iraq, establishing a Deployable Medical Systems Hospital near the Iraqi border. It provided medical treatment and surgery to wounded/injured US military personnel and Iraqi prisoners of war.
After Desert Storm, Pauletich was reassigned to Ft. Gordon, GA, Plans Training and Mobilization Section (PTMS) as Senior Enlisted Medical Non Commissioned Officer working with National Defense Medical System (NDMS).
His military awards include the Legion Of Merit Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three Oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with two Oak leaf clusters, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with Oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two bronze stars, Army Armed Forces Reserve Medal with hour glass and M device, Saudi Arabian Medal for Liberation of Kuwait and Kuwait Medal for Liberation of Kuwait.
Pauletich retired in 2000 after having served for 36 years. Additionally, he was employed at Maricopa Medical Center where he held several positions: Biomedical Repair Manager, Facilities Manager and Safety and Compliance Coordinator. He retired after 32 years.
Pauletich lives in Phoenix with his wife Judy. They have one daughter, Emily DeVoll (Josh), and two lovely grandchildren, Tasha and Knox. He is honored that their daughter would nominate him.
“It is a distinct honor and privilege to represent the fine military women and men who served during Desert Storm,” he said.
Cory Jacob Rensburg
Sergeant First Class
U.S. Army Ranger
Operation Enduring Freedom Grand Marshal
SFC Cory Remsburg, became interested in the U.S. Army Rangers while in high school and entered from his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri in July 2001. He attended One Station Unit Training, Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program at Fort Benning Georgia and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Here he had multiple deployment to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
SFC Remsburg was on his tenth combat rotation when he and his squad were conducting a combat operation on October 1, 2009. His squad was responsible for killing nine enemy combatants and destroyed a large weapons cache. During this operation, SFC Remsburg was very seriously wounded by an improvised explosive device or IED.
At the time of the explosion, SFC Remsburg was thrown into a canal. He was rescued and rendered immediate lifesaving medical care by his fellow Rangers. He was airlifted to Kandahar Air Base for triage, and then to Bagram Air Field for surgery. He was medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Germany. From there, SFC Remsburg was transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital on October 16, 2009 where he was treated for acute medical injuries where he remained in a coma condition. Then on Nov. 12, 2009 he was transferred to the James Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida. It was here that SFC Remsburg started to emerge from his coma into consciousness.
It has been six years and today his parents say he is making remarkable progress participating in events and inspiring others to “keep pushing on when challenged by personal events”.
Since he was an inspiration to others, his courageous recovery was elevated to the national spotlight, when President Obama asked him to be highlighted during the State of the Union Address. The President would later bring a housewarming gift to SFC Remsburg in April 2015 after he received a mortgage free home from the Army Ranger Lead the Way Fund and Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. The home is equipped with special assistive technology to help him continue his healing.
SFC Remsburg has been awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medals and other awards.
He was nominated by his Father Craig, to serve as a Veteran Grand Marshal in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade and he resides in Gilbert, AZ.
Senior Chief Construction Mechanic
Operation Iraqi Freedom Grand Marshal
“They call him Brother, but he was mine first.” Navy Reserve Senior Chief Nathan Rhoad was nominated for the Operation Enduring Freedom Grand Marshal by his sister, Gretchen McFeely, who couldn’t be more proud of him.
“He is a man of honor, of loyalty—a man who leads,” she says. Cousin Paul Gabaldon agrees, “I have witnessed him spending countless hours providing advice, direction, and empathy. He stands in-line with all our Veteran heroes whom have sacrificed for the freedoms we typically take for granted.”
He first enlisted in 1992. “I didn’t have a lot of direction, but I knew I wanted to do something of importance,” said Rhoad. His sister added, “My parents were hoping he would â€˜grow up,’ but he gained so much moreâ€¦ returning more confident, self-assured and responsible.” Rhoad says, “The Navy defines me as a person.”
While on active duty, Rhoad served as a Machinist Mate aboard frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FFT-1089), which was involved in counter-narcotic operations in the Gulf of Mexico. He also recalls watching fireworks from the ship’s fantail in Philadelphia, sailing through the Panama Canal, and crossing the Equator, earning the coveted title of “Shellback.”
In 1994, Rhoad transitioned to the Navy Reserve. Three years later, he placed fourth in the All Armed Forces Wrestling Tournament in Sasebo, Japan–a skill honed during his four years at Greenway High School. His enlistment ended in 1998, but in March 2001, Rhoad returned to the Reserve, and cross-rated to Construction Mechanic, where in 2008 he qualified as a Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist. He deployed to Iraq in 2004. As Lead Mechanic for the “Rock Hounds” during his second deployment in 2008, he kept all the convoy vehicles up and running, as they logged 16,000 miles in six months. Since 2009, he has volunteered for 300 Funeral Honor Details, paying final respects to fallen shipmates of all eras.
He reached another milestone in 2011, being selected for Chief Petty Officer, and then Senior Chief in 2015. His accolades include a Navy Commendation Medal and three Navy Achievement Medals. This Sailor even earned an Army Commendation Medal during his 2014 tour in Afghanistan.
Rhoad resides in Sun City West with his wife Maria, daughter Sydney and step-son Alex. His two sons, Nolan and Dylan are on the East Coast with their mother. He acknowledges his family dynamic has changed a few times during his 22-year career. However, he still readily straps on his boots.
“I believe when you sign on the dotted line, you answer the call no matter what.”