Honoring America’s Veterans recently announced the seven grand marshals for the 2019 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade.
The grand marshals include Lt. Col. Robert Ashby, World War II U.S. Air Force; Capt. William Leasure, Korean War U.S. Air Force; Staff Sgt. William Tafoya, Vietnam U.S. Army; Master Sgt. Norbert “Dave” Yanez, Cold War U.S. Air Force; Pfc Robert Sims, Desert Storm U.S. Marine Corps; Sgt. Ashley Marshall, Operation Iraqi Freedom U.S. Army; and Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Oshana, Operation Restore Hope U.S. Navy.
Actress, singer and dancer Loretta Swit, who starred in the TV show “M*A*S*H,” will commemorate veterans in this year’s parade, according to a press release.
Ms. Swit embraces the compassion of animal advocacy and as such is striving to bring all military K9 working dogs home from overseas, according to a press release. Ms. Swit will serve as celebrity grand marshal to bring more attention to veterans.
The veterans grand marshals will participate in the 23rd annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 in central Phoenix.
The parade is presented by Honoring Arizona’s Veterans, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to honor and recognize those military service members who have served our country.
Lt. Col Robert Ashby
A Tuskegee airman and first black captain for Frontier Airlines, Mr. Ashby of Sun City West was born July 17, 1926 in Yemassee, SC.
As a cadet he flew the Stearman PT-17, AT-6, and the B-25. Ashby graduated as a second lieutenant with the Tuskegee Class of 45-H on Nov. 20, 1945.
After. President Harry S. Truman integrated the armed forces, and Mr. Ashby was assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in August 1949 for a short tour.
Later, he was assigned to a Reserve Troop Carrier Wing at Cleveland Municipal Airport. Here he trained in the T-6 and C-46 aircraft.
In 1952, Mr. Ashby flew B-26’s for a year of combat in Korea while stationed at K-8. In 1956, in England, he flew the T-33, B-45 and B-66. He trained in the B-47 aircraft and became a B-47 instructor.
Reaching the status of Lt. Col, Mr. Ashby retired honorably from the U.S. Air Force in July 1965, after 21 years of fighting racial problems as well as the enemies of America.
Capt. William Leasure
Mr. Leasure of Phoenix joined the U.S. Air Force in June 1954, serving five years as an armament system officer.
During his time in the Air Force, Mr. Leasure served in Colorado where he was involved in testing the F111, one of the newest and most technologically advanced aircraft of its time.
He was directly involved in the testing of this new aircraft and was a member of a team of brave pilots and crewmen who worked on the many bugs associated with F-111 until it was deemed “fit to fly.”
During Mr. Leasure’s time in service, he served alongside numerous “proud and dedicated patriots.” He said he is proud of his time in service.
Mr. Leasure believes the training he and his comrades received was the best in the world and attributes his training and experience in Air Force for many of the successes he has had over his lifetime.
Staff Sgt. William Tafoya
Mr. Tafoya of Goodyear was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 47th Infantry, for the Ski Patrol. The 25th was assigned to Cu Chi, a dense jungle portion of Vietnam, that was thick with Viet Cong.
As a high school student, Mr. Tafoya was disappointed he was not large enough to be accepted to the football team. Yet he found in Vietnam, due to his smaller size, the 25th had just the right job that he qualified for, and this was as a “Tunnel Rat.”
The Viet Cong had extensive and elaborate tunnels in Vietnam. It took just the right volunteer to enter these tunnels, mostly crawling on their stomach in such a tiny space, with a flashlight in one hand and a weapon in the other, in order to root out the enemy.
Spending two years in Vietnam with the 25th, he was awarded many decorations, medals, badges and commendations. Among these awards are the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Rifle, three Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star.
Mr. Tafoya was awarded the Bronze Star for rendering aid to his squad after entering a minefield. Afterward, he stepped on a tripwire and reinforcements were able to extract him before it blew.
Mr. Tafoya says he is proud of his military service, the strong bonds that are only formed in a combat situation. He refers to them as “my brothers” and he will never forget those that gave their lives.
Master Sgt. Norbert “Dave” Yanez
Peoria resident Mr. Yanez was born and raised in Globe. His service spanned 23 years, rising to the rank of Master Sgt.
Mr. Yanez’s service started during the Cold War and included service in England, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Southeast Asia, (Vietnam and Thailand) and Panama.
His many military occupations include a wide variety of skills. Mr. Yanez started out as an air policeman, during that time he was a military police dog handler for four years, a T.I., Air Force drill instructor.
He then cross-trained into the education and training career field. He was the non-commissioned officer in charge of the curriculum section of the Inter-American Air Force Academy in Panama.
His many awards and decorations include Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster; Air Force Commendation with three oak leaf clusters; the Air Force Presidential Unit Citation; Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation with four oak leaf clusters; Vietnam Service Medal with four campaign stars; Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm; and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Mr. Yanez is 80 years old and continues to donate his time and talents to American Red Cross (Luke AFB, 56th Medical Group), Glendale Police Department, Volunteer In Police Services, DUET of Arizona (volunteers helping assist seniors in their daily life needs) and was the coordinator for Luna/Stalls Memorial, raising $280,000 over 10-year span.
Pfc. Robert Sims
Casa Grande resident Mr. Sims was “a small kid from Mammoth” when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 18 years old.
He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 11th Marine, 1st Marine Division and served aboard USS Germantown, USS Frederick and USS Belleau Wood.
He vividly recalled a morning in February of 1991, he stepped off the flight deck, and into a rare sight on the mess decks: steak and eggs for breakfast.
Immediately, he knew something big was about to happen. With Scud missiles flying overhead, he realized, “we’re in it now.”
Mr. Sims didn’t talk much about his time on the battlefield, but according to the unit’s website, the 1st MarDiv “destroyed the enemy in its path as it led the breakthrough to Kuwait City.”
Mr. Sims earned a Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Mast, and other decorations. He is a sergeant in the Gila River Police Department.
Sgt. Ashley Marshall
Ms. Marshall of Mesa is the definition of Army Strong, a release states. Even when faced with hardships, she pushes forward and is still such a kind and loving person.
Ms. Marshall said one of her older brothers is probably the reason she enlisted. He was already in the Army, but said, “it’d be too difficult for her. It was game on.”
He advised her to “pick an easy MOS, not anything like Military Police.” So, right out of high school, she went to basic, with plans to become a 31B, an MP. She barely turned 19 when she was sent to Baghdad in 2005.
She quickly proved herself on the battlefield. While on patrol as a turret gunner just outside Camp Taji, Ms. Marshall’s HMMWV hit an IED. She was knocked out until they returned to the forward operating base.
In a second close-call, a truck was hit by an RPG. Ms. Marshall received the Combat Action Badge, two Army Commendations and other military decorations.
She advanced to sergeant (E5) by the end of her enlistments, got married and enrolled in Arizona State University, where she earned a Bachelors Degree.
She is a coordinator for the Veterans Upward Bound at ASU and a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Oshana
Mr. Oshana of Goodyear enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1984 and has never regretted his decision.
After graduating from basic training at the Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, he reported for his first duty aboard the USS Sylvania.
He later transferred to the Fleet Combat Training Center in Virginia where he became a military working dog handler, sniffing out bombs and other threats.
Mr. Oshana then became a boatswain (hence his nickname “Boats”) and served on the USS El Paso, followed by deployment to the Mediterranean Sea during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
When deployed for Operation Restore Hope in December 1992, “Boats” acted at a Causeway Barge Ferry Pilot to support the multi-national humanitarian aid effort in Somalia, by carrying the necessary equipment, fuel, vehicles and combat cargo for the Marine Expeditionary Force on the ground.
After 20 years of dedicated service, Mr. Oshana crossed the quarterdeck for the last time, retiring from naval service in 2004 with the rank of Boatswain Mate, 1st Class Petty Officer.
The recipient of many medals and ribbons, he is particularly proud of earning the Southwest Asia Expeditionary and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medals.