Hear the Stories from the Grand Marshals of the 2017 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade

  • What: Phoenix Veterans Day Parade Grand Marshals, including Veterans from World War II to present day, share their stories of service to our country
  • When: 5 p.m. Media Availability; 5:30 p.m. Public; Wed. Oct. 4, 2017
  • Where: KTAR Classroom, 7740 N. 16th Street, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85020

Honoring America’s’s Veterans (HAV) is hosting a Parade Grand Marshals introductory event on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the KTAR Studios in Phoenix.  The event is open early for media at 5 p.m. and then at 5:30 p.m. for the public. Refreshments will be provided. (Pre-registration for the public is required as seating is limited. To register, click HERE.)

The Marshals include:

  • Chief Master Sgt. (USAF-Ret.) Harold Bergbower, World War II, U.S. Air Force (Army Air Corp): Bergbower served for 30 years, beginning with a tour in the Philippines from 1940-42. During this time, he was injured by bomb shrapnel and declared dead at the hospital. He awoke in the morgue and walked back to his unit. Closer to the end of his tour, he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for 39 months. He survived the Bataan Death March. Since retiring in 1969, Bergbower has been an active member of his community. He volunteered for many years with the Peoria Unified School District, the Phoenix Zoo, and continues to share his experiences with the service members at Luke Air Force Base. He is a resident of Peoria.
  • Melvin Brody, Korean War, U.S. Navy: Brody served in the U.S. Navy from 1951 until 1955 as an Electrician Mate 2nd Class, aboard the USS Richard B Anderson, DD786, where it operated off the coast of Korea providing escort and plane guard duty for aircraft carriers. Following discharge, he graduated from college and began a 34-year career with Nutone, Inc. Brody has demonstrated a lifetime commitment, including Scouting, the B’nai Brith Jewish service organization (where he was instrumental in bringing Soviet Jews to the U.S.), working with Habitat for Humanity, serving as Chairmen of various veteran’s groups, including Unified Arizona Veterans. In 2005, he was elected to the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame and is a co-founder of the Veterans Hall of Fame Society. He is a resident of Scottsdale.
  • Colonel (USA-Ret.) Larry Leighton, Vietnam, U.S. Army: Leighton served 28 years, retiring as a Colonel. He was awarded the Purple Heart after suffering wounds during a night assault in 1970 in Vietnam, where he was a forward observer. He pursued a distinguished military career that included staff and command positions in the Pentagon and South Korea. He attended the Army Command and General Staff College, War College and National Defense University. After retiring, Leighton founded the 501(c)(3) Corte Bella Vets, which has been responsible for contributing over $110,000 to Arizona veteran charities and individual veterans. He is a resident of Sun City.
  • Command Chief Master Sergeant (USAF-Ret.) Bernard O’Keefe, Cold War, U.S. Air Force: O’Keefe served for nearly 27 years and played a crucial role in the initial operational development of the Ground Launched Cruise Missile School and 38th Tactical Missile Wing, earning eight Meritorious Services Medals. He was a security police officer for both Minuteman and Titan missile fields, and held other security positions during the Cold War. After he retired, he taught at Desert Vista High School, and coached football and fast-pitched softball. During his teaching years, he earned numerous accolades, including The Tempe Diablos Excellence in Education for Going Above and Beyond and Junior Achievement’s Teacher of the Year. He is a resident of Mesa.
  • Major General (USA-Ret.) John Scott, Desert Storm, U.S. Army: Scott began his military career as an ROTC cadet at Florida State University and retired as a Major General in 2003. With nine years on active duty and 26 in the reserves, Scott has served in a wide variety of positions, from a combat tracker and rifle platoon leader in Vietnam to the Senior Operations Officer of the Army’s Information Systems Command at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. He is a deacon of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and volunteers with outreach missions to veterans. He also spent time in Durango, Colorado, teaching disabled veterans how to ski in an adaptive sports program. He is a resident of Gilbert.
  • Chief Warrant Officer (USA-Ret.) Richard Arnold, Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Army: Arnold spent his military service in the cockpit of Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters. He was deployed multiple times, including Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As his unit’s standardization instruction pilot, he developed 94 aviators and 68 non-rated crewmembers in four flight companies. In 2011 during a deployment to Afghanistan, he earned the Order of Dedalian U.S. Army Exceptional Pilot Award for flying a rescue mission to extract emergency personnel. He took fire during this mission and brought home a fallen hero and his unit. He is a resident of El Mirage.
  • Raul Sanchez, Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. Army National Guard: Sanchez is a 10-year Army veteran who has deployed to Kosovo, Afghanistan, twice and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While deployed in Afghanistan, Sanchez worked as a Financial Management Technician and was also in charge of Outserve: Afghan, serving more than 400 active military members and bringing together soldiers who have had no support during their military service. Sanchez later changed his specialty to Media Engagement Specialist and deployed to Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba, where he worked with every media outlet assigned to GTMO. During his tour, Sanchez was chosen for a secret mission as a Combat Cameraman on the Island and received a Letter of Commendation from the Naval Commander of Guantanamo Bay. He is a resident of Phoenix.

Three additional Grand Marshals will also be present:

  • Veteran Community Grand Marshal Captain (USN-RET) Carol Culbertson who serves on more than 17 volunteer boards and is an Arizona Hall of Fame member.
  • Arizona Pageant Queen Grand Marshal Katie Schaaf, the daughter of two USAF Veterans, who was crowned Miss High School America 2017.
  • Business Community Grand Marshal Craig Opel of Arizona Public Service, who is a retired USMC veteran who served with Special Forces. He is currently a senior leader at APS, a corporate sponsor of the event.

HAV will also reveal their Celebrity Grand Marshal at the event.

The Veterans Grand Marshals will participate in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 in Central Phoenix. The Phoenix Veterans Day Parade has been billed as one of the largest in spectator attendance across the country and is now in its 21st year. The parade is presented by Honoring America’s’s Veterans, a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to honor and recognize those military service members who have served our country.


ABOUT THIS YEAR’S PARADE THEME: Just what WAS the Cold War, anyway?

Honoring America’s’s Veterans is recognizing our Cold War veterans this year with the 2017 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade theme, “Silent Sacrifice: Honoring our Cold War Veterans.”

Many of our younger generation might not be really clear on just what the Cold War was, as it certainly is different from other conflicts in which the United States was involved.

Simply put, the Cold War was a period of “non-hostile belligerency” primarily between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a called both a “war of words” and a “war of ideas.” There was tremendous competition involved, including the space race and arms race, and there was a nuclear buildup between the U.S. and its allies in the West and the Communist world, dominated by the USSR and China in the East.

To our military, the Cold War often meant long tours of duty on submarines.

You could say the Cold War was so named because of the “icy relationship” between the USSR and U.S. starting at the end of World War II. Because the two great powers never directly fought each other, it was called a “cold war,” meaning there was no physical fighting. (Interestingly, the term “cold war” first appeared in a 1945 essay by the English writer George Orwell called “You and the Atomic Bomb.”) But the period – which lasted some 45 years, from 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – was marked by economic competition, a nuclear arms race, military tension, espionage and proxy wars.

It was a frightening time, with an ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation, as both sides built and tested destructive atomic bombs. To our military, it meant long tours of duty on submarines, efforts to keep ahead of the Russians in the nuclear arms race, and tracking of ship and submarine movements around the globe to obtain peace through deterrence. To American civilians, it meant bomb shelters in backyards, attack drills in schools and other public places, and an epidemic of popular films that horrified moviegoers with depictions of nuclear devastation and mutant creatures. The Cold War was a constant presence in Americans’ everyday lives.

The Cold War extended to space, with the Soviets launching the world’s first artificial satellite (known as “Sputnik”) in 1957, and the U.S. answering back with its own satellite, Explorer I, in 1958. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a public order creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that same year, but it was the Soviets who put the first man into space in April 1961. Alan Shepard become the first American man in space a month later, and President John F. Kennedy made the bold public claim that the U.S. would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. His prediction came true on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission became the first man to set foot on the moon, effectively winning the space race for Americans.

Building of the Berlin Wall in 1960.

The most visible symbol of the decades-long Cold War was the Berlin Wall in Germany. During the early years of the Cold War, West Berlin was a geographical loophole through which thousands of East Germans fled to the democratic West. In response, the Communist East German authorities built a wall that totally encircles West Berlin. It was thrown up overnight, on August 13, 1961. The wall stood in place until 1989, just over two years after President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in a speech in Berlin, famously saying: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Although there is no specific breakdown for Cold War veterans, there were 181,361 peacetime veterans, according to the latest figures. One of them was Bernard O’Keefe, the Cold War Veteran Grand Marshal for the 2017 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. His nearly 27 years in the U.S. Air Force included four overseas tours, including two in Germany, and he was on the team that put the Ground Launched Missile program into action. “In my first tour in Germany I went through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin,” the retired Command Chief Master Sergeant recalls. “The Berlin Wall was something that brought the whole idea of the Cold War into focus. The Soviet threat was real.”

We hope you will join us for the 21st annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade on November 11, 2017, to honor our veterans from the Cold War and other conflicts. For more information, visit www.phoenixveteransdayparade.org.


Silent Sacrifice: Honoring Our Cold War Veterans

Who:  Honoring Cold War Veterans, those who served from 1955 until 1991

What:  Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, presented by Honoring America’s’s Veterans

When:  Veterans Day, November 11, 2017, at 11 a.m.

WhereParade route runs southbound on Central Avenue starting at Montebello, turns east onto Camelback Road and then south on 7th Street, ending at Indian School Road.

PHOENIX, AZ –Honoring America’s’s Veterans is recognizing our Cold War Veterans this year with the 2017 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade theme, “Silent Sacrifice: Honoring our Cold War Veterans.”

The Cold War (1945-1991) refers to the period of tension between the United States (U.S.), its allies and the Soviet bloc from the end of World War II in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) in the 1990s. After the end of World War II, the U.S. and other democratic Western nations believed previously occupied countries ought to be given the opportunity to hold free elections to form their new governments.  This was a point of contention between the U.S. and the USSR, and a major fear of the outcome of the Cold War was nuclear war.

The term “cold” is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides involved in the conflict.  The Cold War never resulted in direct military conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but was marked by economic competition, a nuclear arms race, military tension and proxy wars.

Although there is no specific breakdown for Cold War veterans, there were 181,361 peacetime veterans, according to the latest figures.

“Our Cold War Veterans’ service meant long tours of duty on submarines, efforts to keep ahead of the Russians in the nuclear arms race, and tracking of ship and submarine movements around the globe to obtain peace through deterrence.  It was a unique time in our country and we’re grateful to those men and women who volunteered to serve to defend us,” said Aaron Dudney, president of Honoring America’s’s Veterans.

On Veterans Day (11/11) Honoring America’s’s Veterans (HAV) pays tribute to our Military and Veterans by hosting the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade at 11 a.m. on the streets of Phoenix.  The parade typically boasts more than 100 entries, featuring patriotic floats, high school marching bands, JROTC marching units, color guards, Veterans Service Organizations, animals, novelty units and much, much more.

The Parade is designed to commemorate and honor our Veterans and to educate Americans about the service and sacrifices our Veterans have made to protect our freedoms.


Veterans Day Parade High School Essay Contest Open Now through Sept. 30


Last year’s essay contest winners – Dillon Shipley, Chelsey Osteros and Koriana Cannon – pose with 2016 Celebrity Grand Marshal Pete Hegseth (left) and HAV President Aaron Dudney (right).

PHOENIX – High school students in Maricopa County can test their writing mettle and win up to $500 cash by entering the essay contest for the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade. In addition, each teacher named on the three winning entries, who encouraged and supported the competition, will win a $150 cash card to use in his or her classroom.

This year’s theme is “Silent Sacrifice: Honoring Our Cold War Veterans.” Entries are evaluated on how well they capture the theme, originality, content, creativity, English and grammar.

Other submission criteria:

  • Open to students in Maricopa County grades 9-12, to include home-schooled students
  • Essays must not exceed 500 words
  • Essays must include the student’s name, age and grade; teacher or parent’s name (if home-schooled), email and phone number; school name, address and phone number

“This long-standing tradition is a wonderful way for our youth to research, learn and express their gratitude toward our military veterans,” says Aaron Dudney, President of Honoring America’s’s Veterans, the nonprofit that presents the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade.

Thanks to a special sponsorship from Durant’s Restaurant, there will be cash prizes for first, second and third place winners.  Additionally, the authors of the top three essays will ride in the parade, meet our veteran grand marshals, have their essays printed in the parade program, and attend the parade victory party.

“Being an essay winner was such an honor,” says Koriana Cannon, a contest winner from 2016. “Meeting the veterans and being part of the parade is an experience I will never forget. It made me even more thankful for all the people who have risked and lost their lives for America. You are my heroes.”

Entries can be submitted through September 30, 2017, by clicking HERE.