Community gathers to honor military, veterans at Heroes Patriotic Luncheon

VMLC President Sam Young with keynote speaker Thomas H. Kirk Jr. (photo by Bill Pedene)

VMLC President Sam Young with keynote speaker Thomas H. Kirk Jr. (photo by Bill Pedene)

Nearly 500 guests attended the 14th Annual Heroes Patriotic Luncheon hosted by the Veterans Medical Leadership Council to honor our Veterans and military personnel for their dedicated service to our country.

The event was hosted at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa on Nov. 16, and featured a raffle, a POW/MIA table recognition, the presentation of colors and a special giveaway for active duty military service members, according to a press release.

Keynote speaker, Colonel Thomas H. Kirk Jr., gave attendees insight into his time as a USAF fighter pilot in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and shared the lessons he learned during his time as a prisoner of war.

On Oct. 28, 1967 while leading the largest air raid of the Vietnam War, Colonel Kirk’s aircraft was hit by enemy fire over Hanoi, North Vietnam. Colonel Kirk was ejected from his aircraft and was immediately captured, the release stated.

Honoree John Malta and Honrary Chair Sue Glawe (photo by Bill Pedene)

Honoree John Malta and Honrary Chair Sue Glawe (photo by Bill Pedene)

He spent five and a half years as a Prisoner of War at the “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp in North Vietnam. He was not released until after the war’s end in March of 1973. For his outstanding bravery, heroism and combat leadership, he was awarded the Air Force Cross, four Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, nine Air Medals and the Purple Heart.

This year, the VMLC was pleased to have Sue Glawe, the vice president of community relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield, as the Honorary Chairwoman for the luncheon, as well as special guests, Tuskegee Airmen and The American Rosie the Riveter Association.

The Community Heroes Award was presented to President Delbert Ray of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community for the community’s continued support of Veterans, the release stated.

Special recognition was given the following honorees for their outstanding service to our nation:

  • John Blehm (US Army, Vietnam)
  • Karl Nielson (US Navy, WWII)
  • John Malta (US Marine Corps, Korea)
  • Zeny Stuart (US Army, OIF)
  • Erin McLoughlin (US Air Force, OEF)

For more information on the Veterans Medical Leadership Council, visit www.arizonavmlc.org.

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