M.E. Misti Isley DeCaire's service in the Pacific during World War II did not satisfy her patriotic urge. At the spry age of 82, she is still serving, this time providing help to area veterans in need.
DeCaire runs the Veterans Helping Veterans Home seven days a week, and nearly 365 days a year.
A glimpse of her packed September schedule reveals that she has something to do almost every day of the month.
Adding to her busy routine, are the efforts DeCaire and others in the organization and community are putting forth in an attempt to raise enough money to open a veterans' residential facility in Heber.
It is a wonder where this 82-year-old dynamo finds her energy.
DeCaire said that before she and her partner opened Veterans Helping Veterans, she was the Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Post 13 every third year, from 1980 to 1994.
She is currently a certified service officer for Post One of the American Legion and AMVETS (American Veterans) in the area. She ran an AMVETS office in Prescott until 1980.
She and her partner originally ran Veterans Helping Veterans out of three-story building next to the American Legion Post at the time.
"They asked us to get more young people in, and so we did," DeCaire said. "But they wouldn't follow the rules, and the state DAV came in and shut us down; canceled the charter."
DeCaire said she and her partner were determined to continue with the residential idea of helping vets, and that's how they came to be in their current location.
Her new post at 212 W. Wade was perhaps destined for DeCaire--she had actually met the previous owner before she purchased the home.
DeCaire had been scouring Payson for a five-bedroom house for quite some time. Her luck was about to change, however, in a strange turn of events.
She heard about a man who had been trying to sell his house for two years and upon touring the house on Wade Lane, she decided to ask the owner about selling it to her.
"Well, I said to my partner, ‘He can't eat us,' and went to the door," she said. "The man opened the door, his name was Nit-Nit, a little (man from the Philippines)."
"So I got to talking to him and as it turned out, I was a WACs (Women's Air Corps) on Luzon, the Philippines, during World War II, and he was on the beach meeting us, and of course after that, it was anything we needed," DeCaire said.
DeCaire was originally in North Africa until the Allies took control of that area of the war and was then transferred to the Philippines.
DeCaire said her persistence stems from her dedication to helping veterans who are in need. She said there is no organization in Heber to provide any kind of residential facility for vets in and the distance to facilities in Show Low and Prescott is restrictive to many vets.
"I do it mostly because no one else will," she said. "I've written letters to the VA in Phoenix and they said, ‘Oh yes, yes, we want to help,' but I never heard anything back from them."
DeCaire has been running the home for vets in Payson for 13 years, first with her partner, who sold her part of the home to DeCaire in January, and now on her own, with the help of her husband, Greg and her son Edward Andrews.
"This is not a handout we are giving vets here," she said. "It's a hand up to help them get themselves back on their feet."
DeCaire said that getting a facility going in Heber, would to help vets in that area improve their lives. It would also give homeless vets a place to stay.
"We've bought 20 acres in Heber and right now, we have twelve trailers at this time waiting to be put on it," she said. "Right now they're not ready to be lived in, but we hope to get them finished and move some people in soon."
DeCaire said they have another five acres in a different location in Heber they can use as well.
"We have four more that have been donated, we just haven't gotten them up there at this time," DeCaire said.
DeCaire said they also have a PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) program right now that meets on Thursdays. They offer personal counseling on Thursdays to vets, as well.
She said they have been doing the PTSD program in Payson for about a month and they are planning to expand the program to the facility in Heber when it is opened.
DeCaire said that she was hoping that the facilities in Heber would have been opened by July Fourth. Due to needs, she is still unsure when they will be finished.
"I have basically the furniture," she said. "But, we need a solar panel for each one of the trailers and batteries, and we need someone to get the pump hooked up for the well."
Also planned for the facility is an on-site discount grocery store for vets.
"We have donation after donation as far as blankets and sheets, but once again we need money to get the power and water up there," DeCaire said.
All of the organization's operation money comes from fund-raisers and donations and private individuals and the community, DeCaire said.
"Not a single penny is given to us by any government agency to help keep this going," she said.
Donations can be made at Compass Bank through their Veterans Helping Veterans account or directly to DeCaire at Veterans Helping Veterans at 212 W. Wade. The group also hosts frequent fund-raisers.