On the walls of U.S. military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the Military Veterans Hospitality Room at Sky Harbor Airport, terminal two, hang plaques which are the work of Payson resident, David Slater.
The plaques read, in all capital letters:
"May God protect and give
You the insight to protect
The others around you
May God be your shadow
And in your footsteps as
You follow the path to
Protect the innocent"
A year and a half ago, Slater had a nephew serving in Marine Corps intelligence.
Slater kept trying to think of something he could make to thank him for serving his country.
"I didn't figure it out before his tour was over, but I did not give up on the idea," Slater said.
In October of 2006, Slater obtained a copyright for an original saying and began making plaques to give to American soldiers.
"I have given away approximately 380," he said.
Payson Supply Line and Packages from Home have shipped the plaques out in care boxes. They hang on the walls of National Guard offices in the Valley and various local businesses.
It takes Slater about an hour to burn his message into the wood of each sign.
The wood is actually irregular cabinet doors donated by RC Cabinets in Tempe.
Slater has begun a new series of plaques that he is making out of planks donated by The Door Stop in Payson.
These will read:
"May your God and the
Others around you help ease
Your pain and suffering
Knowing what you have done
To serve your country
May you be given
The respect you have
Earned and deserve"
He plans to send it to injured soldiers in hospitals.
Locally, the American Legion and Veterans Helping Veterans have also received placemats inscribed with Slater's message.
Slater served in the Navy from 1966 to 1970.
"I never stepped on land in Vietnam, but the second cruise I was on, we carried ammunition, explosives and a SEAL team -- I could have skipped a rock to shore," Slater said.
He was a gunnery captain and his job aboard ship was to land helicopters on the ship's dock and oversee the loading and unloading of ammunition.
"The first time I tried to land a helicopter, I almost got blown off the ship," Slater said.
After his ship was decommissioned in 1969, Slater joined the Seebees.
The plaques are his way of saying thanks and giving back.