(9 Jul 13; 1 Oct 2013; 28 Dec 2014)
The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame recognizes Arizona veterans for significant post-military contributions on a local, state, or national level. They are veterans who have honorably served their country through military service and who continued to serve and inspire their fellow man with their deeds and accomplishments throughout their life. The development of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame and the subsequent creation of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society followed a path that unfolded over several decades. Here is the story as I know it.
The DAV: Today’s Hall of Fame was initially conceived as the Disabled American Veterans Military Hall of Fame by members of Arizona Chapter #1 of the Disabled American Veterans in 1976. The following year, at the Arizona DAV State convention, the concept was presented by James J. Murphy and Lou Blakely to the members present. Motions were made, discussed and passed, and plans were made to induct their first honoree in 1978. As such, former US Senator, former Governor of Arizona, former Chief Justice of Arizona, and a man deemed to be the ‘father of the GI Bill’, the Honorable Ernest William McFarland was selected to be the first inductee of the DAV Military Hall of Fame. Over the ensuing years, the DAV continued to honor distinguished veterans.
The UAV: Another organization, the Unified Arizona Veterans (UAV) was also active during these years and was similar in structure and purpose to that of ‘The Military Coalition’ or TMC. The TMC on a national level and the UAV locally, represent consortiums of veteran’s organizations. As the chairman of the UAV, Bill Thompson, wrote in 1997, “…the purpose of the UAV is to present a unified stand on veteran and retiree issues and legislation. Instead of a mélange of position papers from each veteran’s organization….the coalition permits the diverse veterans organizations to present a unified position to (legislative bodies). It is a reflection of the old adage, “United we stand, divided we fall”. It is axiomatic that when we have a unified position, articulated in a soft, dignified but firm voice, we will achieve our objectives”.
While serving as the UAV Chairman, Thompson told members that the UAV was not a veteran’s organization, but instead, was a committee composed of the leaders of veteran’s organizations from across Arizona. Each representative being appointed by the commander, or president of the respective member organizations, Bill added that “…we are only as effective as our constituent members are effective”. He intended to unite Arizona veterans by reaching out to all corners of the state and by engaging members in initiatives with potential for positive and measurable outcomes. Thompson also urged the UAV to create a Hall of Fame program for all veterans.
The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame project was ultimately approved by the UAV membership, and ideas and concepts began to form. Two years later, Bill’s successor, Chairman Jim Ledy, received a Letter from the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, provided to him by the Director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services (ADVS), Pat Chorpenning. Another door had opened, and the pace picked up when Jim asked his vice chairman, Webb Ellis to ‘follow up’.
Webb Ellis, with an Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame operation manual in hand headed off to Ohio to witness their induction ceremony and to meet with their cadre. In the meantime, an Arizona Hall of Fame committee was formed with Lou Blakely as the Chairman and Jim Ledy, Anthony ‘O” Jones, Emmett T. McNulty and Ronald Murphy as members. ADVS Director Pat Chorpenning served as an Advisor and ADVS staff while Donna Adams provided administrative support. The stated objective was to create an organization capable of recognizing Arizona veterans from all eras, all branches of service, and all walks of life.
On January 31st 2001, Bill Thompson, now serving as an ADVS advisory committee member approached Arizona Governor Jane D. Hull and explained the UAV concept and desire to formally establish an Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame program. She stated her interest in the program and welcomed the invitation to be involved in recognizing the future Hall of Fame honorees. Since then, each Arizona Governor in succession has endorsed all honorees annually by approving their induction into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame.
The inaugural induction ceremony, held on May 30, 2001 was attended by close to 300 people. Twenty six, Medal of Honor recipients, thirteen of those being prior to Statehood in 1912, and twenty four other distinguished Arizona veterans, including many previously recognized DAV honorees were recognized. Each honoree received a Copper Medallion suspended from a leather cord, the front of the medallion depicted an outline of the State of Arizona, with the face of an Eagle, symbolic of the military forces of the United States, and the words “Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame”. On the reverse of the medallion, the honoree’s name and membership number were engraved. Arizona thus became the second State to have a unique Veterans Hall of Fame.
From its inception until 2006, oversight of the AVHOF was provided by the Arizona Department of Veterans Services and the Arizona State Veterans Home. An additional committee of veterans served as advisors, and together those three groups selected inductees annually from nominations solicited from all veterans’ organizations and citizens of Arizona throughout the year. Today, management and oversight of the AVHOF is provided by the UAV and support is provided by the Arizona Department of Veterans Services and the AVHOF Society.
Nominations: Nominations for induction into the AVHOF are submitted annually by veterans’ family members, their friends and neighbors, other veterans, or veteran’s service organizations. Nominations that are received prior to April 30th are considered for induction into the AVHOF the following October. A UAV committee with representation from veteran’s services organizations reviews the nominations and using an objective and unbiased process recommend each year’s AVHOF Honorees, subject to vetting and final approval by the Office of the Governor.
A notable exception to the method of induction into the AVHOF occurred when Mary Ellen Piotrowski became a member of the Class of 2006 six months prior to her classmates. She was serving on the Arizona Veterans Service Advisory Commission and was Chairman of the Unified Arizona Veterans and the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame at the time of her death. Prior to that she had a long and distinguished history of community service and service to veterans, and she had held multiple elected positions, including as the Department Commander of the American Legion. By unanimous vote of the Executive Committee, she was inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame in March 2006.
In general, following induction into the Hall of Fame most members returned to their local organizations and communities, and continued as they had before – contributing to the welfare to the community and others as individuals who had been appropriately recognized by other veterans. Although bound together as honorees who had achieved one of the highest levels of recognition for veterans – they remained as individual contributors to society, and as yet, an unharnessed wealth of talented, experienced and motivated high performers with proven ability.
The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society (AVHOFS): In November 2006, AVHOF inductees gathered in Sun City to consider forming an organization consisting of alumni of the AVHOF. A survey of all members was subsequently conducted in January 2007 with 52 of the 82 living members responding, and with the majority (90%) stating their desire to formalize a veterans service organization (VSO). The Director of the ADVS, Gregg Maxon, and the Chairman of the UAV, Gary Fredricks further recognized that those inducted into the AVHOF represented a unique group of veterans who had already demonstrated leadership, enthusiasm and a willingness to serve all veterans of Arizona. To bring these individual honorees together to work for the collective good of others was deemed significant, and as such, the seeds for the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society were nurtured as mutually beneficial endeavors were considered.
During a subsequent meeting of AVHOF inductees, a decision was finalized and the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society (AVHOFS) was established. It specified that the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society (AVHOFS) members are those who have been inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame (AVHOF). It acknowledged all had served our nation in the U.S. Armed Forces and upon return to Arizona, had enriched our communities and state through distinguished careers and continued selfless public service to veterans, military personnel and their families and survivors. Frank Schmuck, Hall of Fame Class of 2004, was elected as the inaugural president of the AVHOFS.
The first AVHOFS VP was Tom Schaeffer, a former prisoner of the Ayatollah Khomeini who was revered among all veterans’ service organizations for his powerful motivational speaking abilities, cheerful demeanor and overwhelming modesty. Together, he and Frank found volunteers to fill the Officer positions, and also found Directors from each region of our State to ensure all could be involved in the growing organization.
On October 9th 2007, articles of Incorporation were executed in the name of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society, Incorporated. Two weeks later, on October 24th, 2007, the Society filed for Tax Exempt status as a non-profit 501(c) 3 veterans’ service organization, and the following day, the first set of AVHOFS bylaws were approved by members.
During the early years of the AVHOFS prominent initiatives including the founding of the AVHOFS Scholarship Program and the creation of the Copper Sword Award, both of which have evolved significantly, and are now among the hallmark components of the annual Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society's Patriotic Gala celebrated each February on a date close to Arizona Statehood Day.
Throughout 2010 and into 2011, the AVHOFS leadership began to formulate steps required to capitalize upon member’s inherent abilities and most of all, their expectations for the organization. The first order of business was to revise the Bylaws. Secondly, it was imperative to develop a Strategic Plan, as an organization without a formal plan proceeds without a compass and invites dispute. Committees were formed and by early 2011 both documents were ready for membership approval.
The significantly revised Society bylaws were approved by the membership in July 2011. They ensured that members of the Society were voting members, expanded the Board of Directors to include non-AVHOF member ‘Ambassador’ Directors, established office term limits and an election cycle and clarified officer and director duties. It also added as Directors, the Director of the ADVS and the Chairman of the UAV to ensure uninterrupted exchange of knowledge and understanding while striving to achieve mutually accepted objectives.
The Societies strategic plan, also approved in July, provided the framework to guide the Society forward while also summarizing member expectations. The five year plan carries with it a mandated annual review, states both a vision and a mission and contains measurable goals as follows:
Vision: The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society (AVHOFS) seeks to be recognized as the leading advocate for Arizona veterans, military personnel, their families and their survivors.
Mission: The mission of the AVHOF is to preserve and perpetuate the traditions of the American military and all who served in it, to undertake charitable and other projects of both a national and local character, to work with veterans organizations in the attainment of their objectives, and to promote and to encourage responsible citizenship among all Americans.
Goals: Five goals articulate the details needed to realize our vision and to accomplish our mission
- To support and enhance the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame (AVHOF) program.
- To enhance and perpetuate the image of the AVHOF.
- To better serve the Arizona veteran and military communities.
- To acquire the necessary resources to accomplish our goals and objectives.
- To foster a bond of friendship and camaraderie among Society members while continuing to serve the community, state and country.
Projects identified by members and prioritized by the Board of Directors are (#1 Long Term), the creation of a military/veterans museum; (#2 Annual) support of scholarship programs in accordance with MOU agreements; and (#3 Outreach) proactive outreach projects.
The Motto “Our Success is Your Success” was also adopted in 2011. It is succinct, a truism beyond parallel, and one that Bill Thompson would approve of. The motto was immediately released in AVHOFS brochures and posted to our website and on all programs, correspondence and communications thereafter.
2012 was the year that the AVHOFS leadership sought to formalize several existing relationships by signing Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) which defined shared organizational purposes when serving veterans concerns, programs or issues. Two MOU’s, first between the AVHOFS and the UAV, and the second between the AVHOFS and the Veterans Heritage Project (VHP) were signed. The AVHOFS continues to seek additional opportunities to partner with other organizations which seek to support veteran’s initiatives.
Each successive administration of the AVHOFS has built upon the groundwork provided by the previous leaders and participating committee members of the organization. All acknowledge that the members themselves are representative of active community leaders, chairman of boards, presidents of civic organizations, and core participants supporting and leading local veterans’ service organizations. As a whole, we seek to support our members, and we do it in several ways.
Since its very inception, the AVHOFS has had a ‘Country Store’ which allows members to purchase various articles of apparel, most of which specify that the AVHOFS logo will be accompanied by the embroided name of the member. Note cards with the Medallion logo are also available to members, and the ‘proprietor’ of our store is always on the look out to add new items.
The Challenge Coin, added in 2013, depicts the AVHOFS emblem on one side and a tribute to the annual Patriotic Recognition program on the reverse. The Challenge Coin also contains the motto “Our Success is Your Success” accompanied by three words signifying core values of the Society – ‘Service’, ‘Honor’ and ‘Integrity’. The challenge coin was first revealed and distributed to all attendees of the 2013 Patriotic Awards Gala event.
At the request of members, an AVHOFS Flag was created to allow the display of our colors while participating in veteran’s events across the state. The flag that was adopted utilizes the red and blue colors of the Arizona flag, with the AVHOF Medallion in the Yellow sunburst (similar to the 2011 Arizona Centennial license plate) with the words “Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society”. Flags were distributed regionally and were first displayed during the 2013 Memorial Day events.
The most recognizable event associated with the AVHOFS was initially and commonly known as the Copper Sword event. Originally an occasion to recognize an Arizona patriot with a symbol of his leadership among peers and in appreciation of his service to the veteran’s community, a Copper Sword and an engraved plaque were presented on the behalf of our members.
Today, that event has evolved into a wider venue and incorporates the recognition and appreciation of student scholars, individual patriots and organizations whose work benefits veterans. The UAV is also invited to present their legislative award each year. The Annual Patriotic Awards Presentation has become the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society's Patriotic Gala, and it grows larger every year. Components of the event include:
The Copper Lamp of Knowledge: Is our scholarship program, eligible applicants include military veterans and those students participating in the Veterans Administration (VA) student volunteer program, or the Veterans Heritage Project (VHP). The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society created the Student Scholarship Program in 2006 to recognize high school students who volunteer their time on the behalf of our veterans. The students honored are young patriots; they have performed in excess of 500 hours of work at our Veterans Administration facilities and have consistently maintained strong grade-point averages in pursuit of high learning. In 2012, the Society expanded the Scholarship program and formally partnered with the nationally recognized Veterans Heritage Project.
Today, students representing 15 schools are working with hundreds of veterans. Their scholastic endeavors are complemented by learning history directly from those who served. Each student is diligently capturing our veterans’ individual stories and preserving them for all time in the United States Library of Congress. The AVHOFS is a proud partner of the VHP and gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the growing number of students (over 500) who will have interviewed over 1000 veterans by the end of 2014. Over 1000 other veterans are on the ‘waiting to be interviewed’ as of this writing.
And finally, in 2013, the AVHOFS scholarship program was expanded again, this time to ensure that our military veterans would also be eligible for our Lamp of Knowledge financial scholarships. Applicants for AVHOFS Arizona Student Veteran Higher Learning Scholarship must be honorably discharged veterans attending an institution of higher learning in Arizona that is eligible to receive GI Bill funds through the Department of Veteran Affairs.
The Copper Sword Award: Since 2007, the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society’s coveted Copper Sword award has been presented annually to exceptional patriots who did not serve in our military forces. Recipients have distinguished themselves by their dedication and humanitarianism and extraordinary support of veteran initiatives. They are spectacular individuals who earned the right to bear the Sword, a revered and distinct symbol of leadership while engaged in the support of our veterans.
The Copper Eagle Award: In 2013, the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society created the Copper Eagle Award to acknowledge patriotic practices of private or public organizations whose actions warrant recognition for services rendered to the Arizona veteran’s community. The recipients of this award are honored for unique initiatives that complement the mission of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society and for their demonstrated leadership and programs that support our veterans.
The Copper Shield Award: Two years after the Copper Sword was established, the Unified Arizona Veterans created a Copper Shield Award to be presented annually to that elected official who has made significant advances to the veterans community. Crafted of copper, a metal native to Arizona, the shield carries symbolism that is not lost on our elected officials who choose to defend veteran issues. Although this award is presented by the Unified Arizona Veterans, the ‘Copper Awards’ are generally presented during the same Patriotic Gala event each year.
The Century Club: The Century Club, named after the Arizona Centennial, the year it was founded, is a fund dedicated to the support of the AVHOFS Scholarship program. The fund was initially created by members of the Board of Directors who each donated one hundred dollars for scholarship awards. Today, the fund graciously accepts contributions from all donors in any amount in pursuit of the student scholarship programs.
AVHOFS members participate in Memorial Day remembrances and many other patriotic occasions in Arizona, including Veterans Day, Independence Day and the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Often they are the primary organizers and essential staffers for these special occasions – ensuring traditions, integrity, respect, duty and honor are recognized and upheld in the noblest ways possible.
Members contribute to scholarship programs, visit area high schools and share remembrances with students. Others provide leadership training to our youth or volunteer time at the Veterans Administration facilities or Arizona State Veterans Homes. Many have worked at, supported and contributed to veteran memorials across Arizona. They are frequently asked to be guest speakers at social and civic groups – and so they do.
To recognize Arizona’s finest patriots and support our ongoing efforts to preserve and honor their legacy, you can do your small part by doing one, or all of the following:
- Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame: Nominate deserving veterans who have done outstanding work on behalf of other Arizonans. Nominations are due no later than 30 April.
- Copper Sword Award: Recognize patriotic service of those non-veterans who are dedicated to supporting veterans, the military and their families and survivors. Nominations are due no later than 30 June.
- Copper Eagle Award: Nominate a recognized non-governmental organization, institution or corporation that has a significant and outstanding record of support to our military, our veterans, their families and/or their survivors. Nominations are due no later than 30 June.
- Copper Shield Award: Each year, the Unified Arizona Veterans (UAV) recognizes that legislator who has endeavored to best protect the interests of veterans. Nominations must be submitted to the UAV no later than 30 August.
- Copper Lamp of Knowledge: Each year we recognize students who are military veterans and student volunteers participating in the Veterans Heritage Project (VHP) and Veterans Administration (VA) programs who have dedicated extensive time and effort serving veterans. Nominations are received annually in November or are commensurate with higher education semester schedules. Contributions to the AVHOFS Century Club help support this program.
- Support the AVHOFS: Tax-deductible contributions will help us achieve our goals while recognizing veterans, citizen patriots and the youth of Arizona! Submit your contribution online at www.avhof.org Donations or send your check to the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society, 4980 South Alma School Road, A2-619, Chandler AZ, 85248.
The Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society is rooted in a well- recognized tradition of faithful service to others. We are dedicated to our active service members, our veterans, their loved ones, our youthful and patriotic students, and those who unselfishly work for the betterment of our communities. We will preserve and protect the honor, integrity and faithful legacy of military service to Arizona and to the United States of America.
The AVHOFS will continue on its mission, upholding a noble vision while striving to achieve goals set for the betterment of our veterans, their families and survivors, and those who currently serve.
The Society accepts the responsibility of being a leading advocate for Arizona veterans, military personnel, their families and their survivors. We embrace our mission to preserve and perpetuate the traditions of the American military and all who served in it, to undertake charitable and other projects of both a national and local character, to work with veterans organizations in the attainment of their objectives, and to promote and to encourage responsible citizenship among all Americans.
Posted 9 July 2013
Updated 1 Oct 2013
Updated 28 Dec 2013
Validated corrections are welcome. Send to Charles.firstname.lastname@example.org
- AVHOFS Officers and Directors (TBP)
- UAV Chairman (TBP)
- ADVS Director (TBP)
- AVHOF Awards Summary (TBP)
 The Arizona Legionnaire, Page 16, August 1997.
 The Arizona Legionnaire, Page 16, August 1997.
 Handwritten note circa 2001, attributed to Lou Blakely by this author.
 The leather cord was replaced in 2007 by a Red, Yellow and Blue colored ribbon, 1 ½ inches wide (AZ Flag colors).
 Veterans Hall of Fame sequence of founding: Ohio #1; Arizona #2; Connecticut #3 (Florida & Kentucky TBA)
 Reference separate AVHOF annual Induction Programs 2001 through 2006. Since 2007 the Induction Programs have specified that oversight of the AVHOF is primarily provided by the UAV.
 AVHOF Induction Program, 27 October 2006, Class of 2006, Page 7.
 Report dated 28 Feb 2007 submitted to ADVS Director Pat Chorpenning
 Approved by the US Dept of the Treasury, Letter dated 30 June 2010
 Strategic Plan Chairman – John Sentz, and the Bylaws Review Chairman - Gary Fredricks
 The motto is attributed to Rick Romley.