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Veterans Day Vs. Memorial Day

Senior Airman Jerick Encarnacion, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, holds a flag during a Memorial Day candle vigil march May 26, 2014 at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Memorial Day is observed annually on the last Monday of May to commemorate the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Encarnacion is deployed from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska and a native of Vallejo, Calif. (U.S. Air Force by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez/Released)

KINGMAN – Veterans Day, was first called Armistice Day and was dedicated to those who fought in WWI (1914 – 1918) which official ended on November 11, 1918. It ended on the 11th month, of the 11th day at the 11th hour, when a temporary cessation of hostilities was called between the warring nations. As time went on it became known as Veterans Day and in the US it was meant to honor all veterans who served in the armed forces as well as those killed in action. It became an official US holiday and in 1975 President Gerald Ford made it official by setting the date as November 11th.  Veterans Day is different because it is meant to honor all veterans were Memorial day is meant to honor those who died in war.

In the past we honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice in battle. Over the years you have learned that many who fought in battle  died from battle related injuries that were not just physical. What used to be called “shell shock” is now called TBI or traumatic brain injury.  We also have learned to understand PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) the illness that effects many of today’s veterans. These events in the life of a veteran can lead to suicide.  These veterans should be honored and remembered for their sacrifice just as much as those who died on the battlefield.

Kingman, Arizona Veteran’s History

Kingman, Arizona may be one of the unique communities in Arizona, outside of Phoenix,  as we have several memorials, in several locations. that were built to honor veterans. Kingman has a military history that starts in the late 1800’s.

You could say that Kingman’s first experience with the US Military started in 1871 when the US Army established a temporary camp at Fort Beale Springs.  Fort Beale Springs can be found N/W of Kingman in the area of Wagon Trail Road and Fort Beale Drive.

There is also a memorial at the intersection of Andy Devine and Beale that honors the Lt. Edward Beale and company F of the 12th  U.S. Infantry. This memorial is located at the north end of the Kingman Veterans Memorial Park.

The 12th Infantry Regiment is still in existence today and is headquartered out of Fort Carson, Colorado.

Kingman’s next experience with military veterans began during World War I between 1914 and 1918 when residents signed up to serve in the military services.

Situated in front of the Mohave County Courthouse. 310 Springs St, is a memorial that combined two statues into one memorial. The” Spirt of the American Doughboy” and the “Spirt of the American Navy”.  This memorial was dedicated in 1928 by the then commander of the Swaskegame American Legion Post 14. Although there are numerous copies of this memorial around the country the Kingman statue has the unique designation of being dedicated in the name of  Sam Swaskegame. Sam was a Marine and one of many members of the Hualapai Nation who served during WWI. The dedication of this memorial was held in his honor. Sam was killed in action on Oct 7th 1918, 35 days prior to the end of the war.

The Rededication

Sometime after the memorial was erected, the WWI machine gun was stolen and was never recovered. The Arizona Order of Devil Dog Charites of the Marine Corps League worked with various local partners and replaced the gun and refurbished the statue. In June of 2019 Bob Wallace (Lt.Col USMC Retired) officiated in the re-dedication

WWII

Prior to 9/11 the Mohave County Court house, on Spring Street,  displayed several unique plaques with over 1000 names of Mohave County residents, many of them Native Americans, who served in WW II. After 9/11 the added security meant that the memorial plaques on the wall were  no longer at the entrance to the Court house, but displayed in a hallway that few people saw. The Kingman Marine Corps League working with various local partners, one being County Supervisor Jean Bishop, a military mom, arranged for the memorial to be removed from the court house and rededicated in the main lobby of the County Administration Building.  Restoration work on the name tags and plaques was done by volunteers who worked for the Kingman Home Depot. An interesting fact was that most people believed that the names tags were metal, but they were actually pressed leather. It appeared that the name tags were just placed on the wall in no particular order, this made it difficult and time consuming to find the name of a loved one as you scanned thru 1000 + names. The volunteers at Home Depot corrected this when they replaced the name tags in alphabetical order. The cost of the name tags at the time is unknown, but similar name tags today would cost an estimated $5 plus for each name.

The dedication of the Memorial took place in May, 2016 and members of the Hualapai Nation performed a special blessing to honor veterans of WWII, who were seated in the front row during the ceremony, as well as all veterans present.

Kingman Army Air Field

During WWII residents of the greater Kingman area not only served their country by enlisting in the military but many worked at the Kingman Army Airfield. The airfield was home to the Air Gunnery Range School.. The airfield was built in 1942 and was used to train the gunners who served on the bombers. In 1945 the base was closed and the property and equipment declared surplus. At one time there was a museum located at the site of the airfield, but was closed when the operators sold all of the planes and memorabilia.

The majority of the WWII hangers and buildings have been taken down, replaced or repurposed. One of the key structures still in place is the control tower that still stands in the same location today. Beneath the tower is a plaque dedicated to the trainees and a gunnery instructor who were killed when the bus they were in  was stuck by a train as it crossed the tracks.

Photos of the airbase can be found at the Kingman Airport Café, located next to the old control tower. Not only does it have some interesting photos, the food is also good.

What was once the airbase theater was turned over to Mohave County and then given to the local American Legion, where it stands today at the corner of 3rd and Oak Streets. That theater now serves as the headquarters of American Legion Post 14. The post holds a memorial service at the Mountain View Cemetery (1301 Stockton Hill Road) starting at 11 AM. This recognizes the original ending of WWI on the 11th month, of the 11th day at the 11th hour.

The original memorial project was the dream of Jerry Ambrose and Chuck Chlarson, both Marines, Vietnam veterans and members of  Dean W. Reiter Detachment #887 of the Marine Corps League. Working with local partners and veterans groups they raised the funds needed to build the memorial. The memorial was official dedicated in 2006.  The memorial consisted of six obelisks bearing the insignia of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. Some have asked why the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines were listed. Originally the US Coast Guard was not considered an active part of the US Military, but was formed to enforce the tariff laws and prevent smuggling.  They were created in 1790 and worked under the Department of the Treasury. Today they work under Homeland Security and have served in several wars zone, starting in the 1800’s to the current anti-terror patrols in the Red Sea. Along with their overseas operations the Coast Guard patrols our nations shores as part of its drug interdiction and smuggling role.

The US Merchant Marine was another service that served the military as they crewed the ships that were the lifelines that suppled the food and equipment to keep the troops supplied overseas. During WWII an estimated 9,521 merchant mariners were killed.  Today we still have a Merchant Marine Academy and still train young man and women in the area of Maritime Logistics and Security.

Korean War Memorial and Vietnam Memorials

These memorials were dedicated in 2006 by the Korean War Veterans Association and the Vietnam Veterans of American, Chapter 975 of Mohave County.

They consist of granite engraved maps of the countries where the wars were fought. The VN memorial has the names of two local residents who were killed during the conflict.

Although the Korean veterans have passed, for the most part, and no longer hold a service at the park, the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 975 still holds a memorial service each year on VN Veterans day. It was pointed out at the 2024 service…”each year are numbers are less”.

Colors Of War

After trying for several yeas to raise the fund for memorials for Afghanistan and Iraq the Marine Corps League did what Marines do best. We adapted and overcome. With help from the City of Kingman Parks Department and some local partners the MCL designed and built another memorial called the Colors Of War. This memorial wall holds plaques that have the ribbons for each of the major conflicts from WWI to the present, including the War On Terror. A space was left for one final plaque for the war we hope we never fight. The name Colors of War comes from the use of the military campaign ribbons affixed to the plaques. Still pending is a plaque that denotes …

I am the Colors of War. Not all my Colors are here but that is all right. Those who earned me know. My Colors tell a story; a story of a time and a place.  My Colors express many feelings; pain, suffering, hardship, joy, friendship, sorrow, laughter, happiness and tears. My Colors stand for comradery, courage, commitment, heroism, honor and a fight for Freedom in far off lands and at home. My Colors are worn by those who served , these colors are earned, not given.

Submitted by Terry Flanagan