Around the Town: Armed Forces Day Parade Saturday to celebrate military history

Posted on by az100

ABBIE GRIPMAN – | Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 5:00 am

The annual Armed Forces Day Parade, an official Arizona Centennial event, will be held Saturday in downtown Flagstaff. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. This year’s theme is “Arizona’s Military History.”

Jay R. Vargas of Winslow, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, will serve as the parade’s grand marshal. Vargas was born in Winslow, the son of immigrants, an Italian mother and Hispanic father, who came to the United States in 1917.

Before joining the Marines, Vargas earned a doctorate degree from Northern Arizona University.

Of his many accomplishments as a Marine officer, the most widely publicized was achieved in combat. In the spring of 1968, while serving in the Republic of Vietnam, Vargas’ company engaged in fierce combat with the enemy at the village of Dai Do. During the battle, he was able to free one of his platoons, pinned down by heavy fire, by personally destroying three enemy machine gun positions. Vargas was then able to carry to safety his seriously wounded battalion commander and save seven other marines.

It was for his actions at Dai Do that, in a May 1970 ceremony at the White House, President Richard M. Nixon presented Col. Vargas with our nation’s highest decoration for military valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Vargas’ personal decorations include: the Silver Star; the Purple Heart with four Gold Stars; the Combat Action Ribbon; the Meritorious Service Medal; and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Silver Star and Palm.

Parade division marshals include: Ann Seney, American Legion Department of Arizona Vice Commander Area; Bob Puskar, Military Order of The Purple Heart Department Of Arizona Commander; Alex Romero, Marine Corps League Department of Arizona Commandant; Dennis Dole, Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Arizona Department Commander; William Redpath, Scottish American Military Society Southwest Director; Robert Halliday, Arizona Department of Public Safety Department Director; Leroy Shingoitewa, Chairman of Hopi Tribe; and tentatively Ben Shelly, President of Navajo Nation.

Also Saturday, the Fort Tuthill Military Museum will observe Armed Forces Day with special displays and information on the military history of Arizona’s famous 158th infantry Regiment, including Fort Tuthill’s history as the regiment’s training site prior to, and after World War II. The museum is located at Fort Tuthill County Park.

And at Pulliam Airport, military aircraft will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pilots will be on hand to discuss the aircraft at this free event.

Fire ecology workshop set for Saturday

Sick of smoke? Worried about a Schultz repeat? Or do you just like learning about fire? Willow Bend Environmental Education Center is hosting a fire ecology workshop Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Participants will discuss forest fires, northern Arizona style, at this hands-on event.

To honor the efforts of our community due to the fires last summer, 100 trees will be planted by participants. RSVP is required. Meet at Willow Bend on Sawmill Drive to carpool to the workshop location at the Piestewa family ranch.

To RSVP, call 779-1745 or e-mail

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