This month, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Diane Enos and Vice-President Martin Harvier invited George Robinson, Veterans Affairs representative to the Community, and veteran, Council member and Salt River American Legion Post 114 - Bushmasters Commander Ricardo “Brusha” Leonard to answer the questions for the interview. Enos and Harvier wanted to give time to the important issue of the new Veterans Hall and services for veterans on the Community.
When did Council decide to open Veterans Hall, and what was the reason behind it?
Ricardo “Brusha” Leonard: Council set aside monies for the American Legion Post to carry out various duties and services that pertain to the Community’s veterans. Part of that money was for bringing a Veterans Affairs Representative to this Community, and we felt it was time to do that. George Robinson is the Community’s new Veterans Affairs Representative.
George Robinson: The Veterans Hall was created with the intent to provide important services to Community veterans, including handling administration issues, DD241s, burial services, head markers, disability issues, and benefits for veterans, dependents and survivors. Before the opening of the Veterans Hall, members of the Salt River American Legion Post 114 - Bushmasters investigated what other Native American tribes do to offer services to their veterans; this included researching other veterans offices, such as the Office of Hopi Veterans Services and Safety on the Hopi Nation. The Salt River Post decided to model its veterans services after the Hopi Veterans Center, so members of the Post consulted with Eugene Talas, director of the Office of Hopi Veterans Services, for input and suggestions. Many of the services in the Community’s Veterans Hall will be similar to the Hopi services, including most likely publishing a “Veterans Corner” newsletter like the Hopi center does.
Veterans Hall will be dedicated during the Veterans Day program on November 11 at 9 a.m.
To whom does the Community’s Veterans Hall provide services?
Robinson: The Veterans Hall will provide services to Community-member veterans, non–Community-member veterans, and non-Native veterans such as Community employees. But because of the location of the hall, Community-member veterans will always come first. This hall shall not discriminate or refuse services to any veteran regardless of race, color or creed. Veterans have shared the same experiences in times of peace and war, and to put a clause to serve only specific individuals hurts the purpose of serving all veterans. The Veterans Hall also serves as the hall for American Legion Post 114 - Bushmasters. This Post does have Community-member, non– Community-member, and non-Native veterans within its ranks. The American Legion cannot discriminate; further, this post is well recognized throughout Arizona, in many Native communities and outside the state of Arizona.
Members of the Salt River American Legion Post 114 - Bushmasters have at many times visited other Native American and non-Native communities to serve as the color guard for events, such as the Arizona State University West Pow-Wow, the Indian Health Services Pow-Wow and the Josiah Moore Banquet. Post members also stand guard at wakes and render military gravesite honors for their Community members. Recently, the Salt River Post rendered military honors for Dallas Quasula, Sr., a member of the Hualapai Tribe; Spec. Chris Moon, 82nd Airborne of Tucson, who was killed in action; and Community-member veterans Philip Stevens, Lyman G. Morgan and Theron Andreas.
Will the facility be utilized to educate young people about the history of military service and past experiences?
Robinson: Yes, the hall is able to host lectures and classes on military history from the famed Bushmasters from World War II to Korea and Vietnam, and will host military services if requested. There will be display cases containing donated military uniforms, photographs and other memorabilia to be displayed for the Community. A Community veteran who is a member of another American Legion Post will be donating a collection of uniforms, TA50 field clothing and equipment, photographs and articles dating from World War I to the present.
Another person will be donating a collection of Air Force photographs of airplanes. Young people should be able to learn military history and understand what this country and their Community veterans have gone through and to recognize that freedom is never free; a price has to be paid for that freedom.
Leonard: We are going to have displays so that people can better understand what their family members went through, kind of like the museum but on a bigger scale. We welcome anyone to come in and learn. We are involved with the Salt River High School’s ROTC and try to utilize them when we can; we support them and their program. If students are interested in the military, we can tell them where to go and help them learn about it.
How will the Veterans Hall improve services for Community veterans?
Robinson: The Community should not have the burden of paying for headstones, markers or flags when these items may be obtained from the Veterans Administration free of charge. The same applies for obtaining DD214s (military discharges) free of charge. Once the Veterans Hall is fully operational, a representative from the Veterans Administration will come in to set up a direct line to the Veterans Administration to file for veterans healthcare and disability benefits directly from this office. A separate computer will be set aside for this purpose. Until now, veterans have had to make a trip to Phoenix to file for benefits, or place a call from this office to the Veterans Representative at the Veterans Administration. Now, with a Veterans Affairs Representative on site, applications can be made and questions answered much more quickly.
A list has been complied of various forms that may be downloaded, filled out and submitted to the Veterans Administration by fax from the Veterans Hall; replies will be sent back within a matter of days. The information is then relayed to the Community veteran by telephone. The Veterans Hall currently has a booklet available titled “Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents, and Survivors, 2010 Edition”; other pamphlets are available as well.
Leonard: The main point of improving the process of applying for benefits is that there are millions of dollars out there in veterans and survivor benefits that have not been claimed. A lot of veterans have money waiting for them and they don’t know it. George has the ability to contact different people, make sure the information is correct, and get the proper documentation filed. If he doesn’t have the answer, he will point someone in the right direction. He will do the best he can to help Community veterans who are entitled to benefits apply for and receive them.
How will you inform Community veterans about all the services available through Veterans Hall, over and above headstones and funeral arrangements?
Robinson: We are working on a Web site that will be posted under Administration as part of the Community’s Internet site. it will inform the Community about Veterans Hall services and provide updated veterans news. We would like to work closely with the Au-Authm Action News and the Community Relations Department as well to get out information to those who don’t have the Internet.
On November 11, the Veterans Hall will be dedicated during the Veterans Day Program, starting at 9 a.m. The event will be hosted by the Senior Disabled Community Advisory Committee. This announcement will be posted on the Internet, in Community announcements and on the Veterans Hall Web site.
When family members of deceased veterans are referred to Veterans Hall after asking Memorial Hall Manager Deborah Antone about military services for the deceased, it is the responsibility of the Veterans Affairs Representative to provide as much information as possible. Families of deceased veterans will always come first; anything else is secondary. It is from visits such as this that the Community is now beginning to realize that there is a building for their veterans.
Short notice is usually given by families needing military funeral services, yet when word is sent out, American Legion Post members will volunteer and make sure their equipment is ready quickly, without complaint. Many Community members are impressed with the Post services during these events, and many give thanks for this service. There is no charge for any services rendered by the Post; a handshake is payment enough.
For more information about Veterans Hall and the services provided there, contact George W. Robinson, Veterans Affairs Representative, 10005 E. Osborn Road, Bldg. 2, Scottsdale, AZ 85256. You may call (480) 362-5530 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
VETERANS DAY PROGRAM at Veterans Hall, (across from old Human Resources bldg.) Continental breakfast at 9 a.m., program begins at 10 a.m. Musical performances, roll call of veterans, guest speakers, t-shirts and lunch. For more information contact Events at Community Relations (480) 362-7734.
President Enos and Vice-President Harvier continue to have an open-door policy for Community members to discuss their concerns or share their ideas. Please call Lisa Fulwilder at (480) 362-7465 to set up an appointment to meet with the president or vice-president to address any issue you may have.
Executive Office Open to Questions
If you have questions that you would like answered in the monthly President/Vice-President Interview in Au-Authm Action News, you may submit them to Tasha Silverhorn at Au-Authm Action News, 10005 E. Osborn Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85256. Fax (480) 362-5592, e-mail email@example.com, or phone (480) 362-7729.