Bringing Honor Home

Local veterans prepare to salute new memorial

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You don't have to try very hard to find out what Payson's soon-to-be-unveiled Arizona Veteran's Memorial means to the many men and women in town who served in the United States' armed forces.

They tend to wear their sentiments on their sleeves much like Bill Sahno, a Payson resident who spent 30 years in the United States Marine Corp, ending his tenure with the rank of colonel.

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Pictured is an artist's rendering of the Arizona Veterans Memorial which will be unveiled May 28 at Green Valley Park.

"There have been memorials to the warrior throughout history," Sahno says, "but this one, to me, means that I can see that memorial at any point in time and pay respects to those folks who allowed me to be here today."

That's hardly an atypical point of view concerning the project, which was brainstormed many years ago by members of the local American Legion. It has since passed through countless hands while enduring, as Sahno says, "more ups and downs than a roller coaster." It will finally become a permanent fixture on the Payson landscape May 28, Memorial Day.

On that date, a parade and speech by U.S. Representative J.D. Hayworth will precede the unveiling of the Arizona Veteran's Memorial a block and concrete structure that will fly Old Glory, the Arizona state flag, and the POW/MIA flag near the Green Valley Park amphitheater where the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall replica temporarily stood last summer.

Last fall, organizers hoped the memorial would be built and ready for viewing on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. or 11-11-11, the celebrated date and time of the official end of World War I, which was eventually transformed into Veteran's Day. But bad weather brought both construction and a full slate of related activities to a halt.

This time around, the dedication will take place no matter what, promised Arizona Veteran's Memorial committee member Lee Pretsch a non-veteran who's as thrilled about the project's completion as anyone.

"I've always been very patriotic, and every place my husband and I have traveled, we've stopped at the American military cemeteries," Pretsch says, "because those men are who made freedom possible for us today in the United States.

Also, she adds, "My husband and two sons have given a combined total of 57 years to the military, and we are so fortunate that each of them is home and safe. I am very thankful for that. And we should never forget the price that was paid by those who did not come home."

The dedication of the Arizona Veteran's Memorial, to be emceed by Don and Nancy Holcombe, is set for 1 p.m. Memorial Day. Rep. Hayworth's keynote address will be followed by readings of special messages from U.S. senators John McCain and Jon Kyle.

In addition, Deputy Adjutant General David Gregg Maxon will be on hand. He'll arrive in a Blackhawk helicopter that will remain on display throughout the day.

The U.S. Army also is expected to bring a portable rock-climbing wall for the brave of heart, as well as bungee-cord safety lines for the not-so-brave.

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