2020 Honor Our Heroes Honorees
Bill Shackelford enlisted in the U.S. Navy the day after Pearl Harbor. He started his service in June of 1942 and received his wings at Pensacola in August 1943. He graduated from flight school as an Ensign in the Navy. He was sent to San Diego and, once his squadron was organized, it was on to Hawaii where he and others boarded the USS Monterey – an independence-class light carrier.
Shackelford was involved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June of 1944. This battle was a major naval battle of World War II that eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions.
In September 1944, Shackelford was shot down but could land his plane on the island of Panay in the Philippines. The people of the island picked him up and kept him from being captured by the Japanese. While there, he became a part of the United States Armed Forces Far East as part of its guerilla forces for three months. During this time, he was listed as Missing In Action, according to the Navy. After the three months, Shackelford and eight of his squadron were located and picked up by submarine to be taken to Australia. They were attacked and spent 24 hours on the Pacific Ocean’s bottom while bombs were dropped on their area. It took another three weeks for Shackelford and his companions to make their way across Australia to New Guinea, where they were picked up by a Navy Mars (ocean boat patrol) plane and transported to San Diego.
Shackelford served in the Navy for 16 years and is featured in two different books written about WWII. After the war, he bought a foundry and machine shop. In 1970 he went to work for a power transmission company working there until his retirement in 1988.
He also married his high school sweetheart, and they had six children. They were married for 65 years, raising their family in Parkersburg, WV. In West Virginia, he was a volunteer for the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club for many years. Shackelford moved to Arizona, and after the passing of his wife when he was 90 years young, his son encouraged him to find something to do with his time. Shackelford applied to be a Volunteer at Banner Boswell Medical Center. He has spent the last nine years serving Banner Boswell as a Day Chairman, providing just shy of 3,500 hours.
Avery “Dan” Hampton joined the U.S. Marine Corp at 17 years old. He was in the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Division. While in the Marine Corps, Hampton served a tour of duty in Korea and two tours in Vietnam, seeing massive battlefield action. He participated in 10 different major battle offensives, including “Utah,” and “Texas.” Hampton went in with 1,200 men in his battalion, and he was one of only 137 men that came home. His battalion lost 1063 men in Vietnam. He has many medals and commendations, including the Presidential Unit Citation from the Korean Marine Corps.
Hampton credits the military with teaching him discipline and the ability to work with people. “I saw men give their lives for our country and our flag. That is why today, I fly the flag proudly at my home. When I see the flag flying, there is a pride that swells in my heart, a lump in my throat, and a tear in my eye because I know the price we pay to keep our flag flying. I remember those who gave the ultimate price in service to our country,” he said.
Hampton says the military also taught him how to respect those in authority. He feels that without obedience, there would have been confusion in the ranks. When he became a Master Sergeant (E-8), he taught those under him his servant leadership style, of how to lead and walk with them side by side. He tried to teach them to be safe, to do their job, and to do so with pride and patriotism.
After he retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, he was an upholstery store owner for nearly six years. While working in this shop, there was a different tug pulling at his heart. “I saw many young people living lost lives, and I wanted to intervene and show them how God could help them through His love and obedience,” said Hampton.
That’s when he enrolled in a Bible College and became a Baptist minister. He was selected as the Assistant Pastor at West Coast Baptist Church in Vista, CA, and ministered to150 people in their youth group. At the age of 47, he went back to college. Upon completion of that tenure, he began the Barstow Baptist Temple in Barstow, CA. He was both the founder and pastor. The church started with 52 people. In eight years, his numbers grew to more than 400. He pastored at this church for 29 years and stayed on two additional years to help transition his congregation to the new pastor. He is still ministering to folks today at age 85.
Hampton married his wife Edith in 1955. He met her when he came back from Korea, and they have four children; three sons and one daughter. He also has nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Two of his sons also served in the military, one in the U.S. Navy for ten years, and the other did six years in the U.S. Air Force. He and his wife have been married for more than 65 years.
Of his service to country Hampton says, “America is the greatest nation we have on this earth. I love it, and if I could fight today, I would. I truly love the red, white, and blue.”
Col. Thomas E. Kirk Jr. was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot with 28 years of active duty service. He is a veteran of both the Korean War and Vietnam War conflicts. During his military career, Kirk served worldwide, commanded a fighter squadron in the Vietnam War, commanded a Pilot Training Wing in Alabama, served as Deputy Commander of the Lowry Technical Training Center, Denver, CO, and was Vice Commander of Special Forces at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.
Most noteworthy, while leading the largest fighter-bomber raid of the Vietnam War on Oct. 28, 1967, Colonel Kirk’s F-105 was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Hanoi, North Vietnam. With his plane engulfed in flames, forcing him to parachute from it. Upon landing, he was immediately captured and spent five-plus years as a Prisoner of War (POW) at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. After the war’s end in March 1973, he was set free.
When Kirk reflects on his service, many thoughts come to mind. “My military life and service created in me a deep love for and appreciation of the wonders of our country – specifically freedom, opportunity, and the ability to do and be whatever I chose (within reason). My jet fighter airplanes career re-enforced my sense of discipline in life and flight and trust in my fellow airmen. My POW experience, while tough, taught me how to live with adversity, keep the faith, love of family, and belief in the goodness of our country. When I speak of our military, the operative words are “Service to our Country.” In my view, Veterans do not wish to be thought of as heroes. Instead, they ask that their service and sacrifice be appreciated and noted.”
His awards include the Air Force Cross, four Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, nine Air Medals, and the Purple Heart for his combat leadership and heroism. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Virginia Military Institute and a master’s degree in business from the University of Southern California.
After his military retirement in 1978, he became a Certified Financial Planner, first overseas in Italy and then in Vail, CO. At the age of 80, he and his wife Ann moved to Anthem in 2008.
Today, Kirk uses his experience as a POW to speak to the youth and others about how he broke under extreme punishment. In doing so, he hopes to help students and veterans alike embrace their strengths and weaknesses. He encourages them to surround themselves with people who make them better and find their inner reserves to battle temptations.
In closing, he says, “I love my life, and I am blessed with a wonderful wife, Ann. My motto has been and is, Every day above ground Is a great day.”
Jim Kelsey was 14 months old when his father, a West Point graduate, was killed in combat during World War II. Destined to follow his father, Kelsey entered the Army in 1965 as an Infantry Officer, almost immediately being deployed to Vietnam as a rifle platoon leader and later having a second tour as a company commander. He transferred to Military Intelligence in 1969.
Trained at Fort Holabird, MD, he wrote the Army’s intelligence volume analyzing the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Later serving on the Army Staff in the Pentagon, he oversaw the first exchange of General Officers between the Soviet Union and the United States since the end of World War II. Serving as the Chief of the All Source Intelligence Center for the Combined Field Army in Korea, he provided daily analytical products to the largest Army in the free world.
Selected for Battalion Command, Kelsey led over 400 counterintelligence personnel in Germany to hunt for Soviet and East Bloc spies threatening U.S. forces in Europe. After graduating from the Army War College, he was instrumental in creating the Military Intelligence Corps while assigned to Fort Huachuca, AZ. Kelsey then returned to Germany to command the largest intelligence brigade in the Army with over 3000 people in 10 countries. He was in command when the Berlin Wall fell and directed operations to exploit intelligence garnered from refugees and defectors from the Soviet Union and all the East Bloc nations.
Kelsey then served as the Director of Operations for the Intelligence and Security Command, directing 26,000 operators during the first Desert Storm. His last assignment was as a Chief of Staff and Garrison Commander at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, overseeing the most extensive military construction project since the Pentagon building. Following retirement from the Army, Kelsey spent 15 years in the defense industry advising on intelligence strategy, equipment, and operations
Looking back at his career, he is humbled by the sacrifices the men and women under his command made for this Nation. He says, “The greatest duty one has is to ensure that those sacrifices were for the greater good, preserving the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today.:
On a personal level, he knows none of his success would have been possible if his wife and two daughters had not supported him in 22 moves over 30 years.
While in the U.S. Army, he earned the Combat Infantrymen’s Badge, Parachute Badge, Special Forces Tab, General Staff Badge, the Bronze Star with V, four Legions of Merit, five Meritorious Service Medals, three Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars, two Air Medals and an Army Commendation Medal.
Aaron Dudney joined the U.S. Army in 1981 to become a Radio Teletypewriter operator.
His first duty station was at Fort Lewis, where he was assigned to 2/4 Field Artillery and then went to Germany, where he served with the 3/35th Field Artillery for five years. Afterward, he was reassigned to Fort Ord, California, where he was attached to 2/10 Cavalry. He went to Ranger School, Airborne School, Air Assault School, and Repel Master School. After Fort Ord, Dudney was sent to Camp Red Cloud South Korea for a year, went to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he led a communication team into Somalia to support the mission Operation Restore Hope. His team provided the airbase backhaul voice and data communication for the Fir Force, Marine Corp expeditionary force, and 101st Air Assault division. During his time in Somalia, he was involved in a paratroop operation with the Australian airborne team.
“Joining the military was a much-needed turning point in my life, and it truly shaped me into the man I am today. When I joined the Armed Forces, I wasn’t sure what I stood for, other than I needed something to help me turn my life around. The military offered discipline, training, skills, and a sense of purpose. It didn’t take long to feel the belonging that was once missing in my life. My initial reasons for joining had become somewhat opaque and were replaced with a new sense of reality, team, purpose, and patriotism. I now had my guiding light,” says Dudney.
After 20 years of service, he retired and began his second career with Arizona Public Service (APS) as a Communication Technician. APS’s deep history of supporting and hiring Veterans was instrumental during this transition.
“Veterans are more than just welcomed at APS. They invest in them and provide many great opportunities. Within my life, the only thing that can compare to my service to this Nation is the opportunity APS has given me. I now spend time trying to give back through charities and my time by donating it to the APS Veterans Engagement Transition Retention (VETERN) group, the nonprofit Honoring America’s Veterans, and the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade,” he adds.
In closing, he leaves us with this thought, “I believe that those of us who have served or currently serving become brothers and sisters in arms regardless if we know each other or not. It’s a bond chiseled into our soul through our common sharing of the blood, sweat, tears, and sometimes more. To use the quote loosely, “If I have to explain you wouldn’t understand.” -Oscar Wilde.
Lt. Col. (Retired) David S. Clukey was commissioned as an Armor Officer upon graduation from Georgia Southern University in 1998. His initial assignments included the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), Fort Carson, Colorado, and the 3rd ACR.
Clukey was deployed to Operation Joint Forge, Bosnia, and Operation Bright Star, Egypt. LTC Clukey conducted three combat tours to Afghanistan to support Operation Enduring Freedom and led a three-person advisory team to support the first autonomous Marine Special Operations Command, Joint Combined Exercise for Training in Kenya. While in service, he earned the distinction as a Green Beret, an exceptional reputation of the Special Forces.
Clukey’s last assignment was as the Commander for the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion. In September 2018, he retired from active duty after more than 20 years of service in the U.S. Army.
Clukey’s awards and decorations include the Special Forces Tab, the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Parachutist Badge, the Special Forces Combat Diver Badge, and the Recruiter Badge. He has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Meritorious Service Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), as well as other various U.S. and foreign decorations and badges.
Clukey holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Georgia Southern University and a Master of Science in defense analysis specializing in irregular warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School. He attends the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University as an MBA candidate.
He continues to share his knowledge and expertise within his local community. Clukey is a freelance Senior Military Analyst and Expert. He also is a Fellow with the Special Operators Transition Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to helping Special Operations Forces veterans transition from the military into their next successful career. Clukey is an active member of several veteran service organizations. He has shared his war-time experiences with the high school youth in our community through the Veterans Heritage Project and the Military Order of the World War’s Arizona Youth Leadership Conference.
John Lewandowski chose the Marines for discipline and a way to serve our country. But this path didn’t come easy. In high school, he was a bit of a troublemaker and walked away from schooling to return later and graduate from Arcadia High School.
At 19, he found a new way of life in the Marine Corps, serving for 21 years. His stateside duty stations include North Carolina, Hawaii, Arizona, and California. His overseas deployments include Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, Thailand, Egypt, Bahrain, and Australia.
His deployment to Iraq came as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While nearing the end of his career in Iraq, he reflected upon those that would follow in his footsteps. It brought him pride to witness the next generation of Marines who were hard workers, willing to expend the maximum effort and understand the reasons behind keeping the Corps’ traditions alive.
He cites his military service in turning his life around and giving him many wonderful opportunities.
For the last seven years of his active duty commitment, Lewandowski was in California, and his wife and two young boys were in Arizona. Lewandowski would drive home every Friday and leave again on early Monday mornings. He retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 in the Marine Corps.
He is a first-generation American by way of Polish descent. His parents were very hardworking, and eventually, that carried over to John.
Within his first two years in the Marines, he found a beautiful Marine and married her. Although he was a city boy, his wife Donna was a country girl. The two made it work, and now after 25 years are still going strong. They raised two sons and currently reside in Goodyear.
Lewandowski now uses his leadership and operational skills from the Marine Corps in his role with Cisco Systems.
Today, Lewandowski likes to keep the spirit of America and the Corps alive. Throughout the year, you can find John walking around waving the American flag on days like Memorial Day or the anniversary of September 11th. Lewandowski also likes to volunteer with the Patriot Guard Riders to honor Veterans by conducting escort missions to their final resting place.