Honoring our vets: Stories of American perseverance

Peter Wainwright, a former Paradise Valley councilmember, vice mayor and police chief served in World War II at the young ages of 17-19, delivering supplies to troops. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Veterans and civilians around the country will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day –now commonly known as Veterans Day — this Sunday, Nov. 11.

Within the Town of Paradise Valley, the holiday is celebrated with an annual specialty car show and parade.

A number of local residents best known for their efforts to shape Paradise Valley into the special community it is today, served their country before becoming a steward of the municipality.

Former Paradise Valley Vice Mayor and the town’s first police chief, Peter Wainwright, served in World War II as a U.S. Merchant Marine.  Paradise Valley Police Department volunteer and longtime resident Rick Adams served as a Marine during the Cold War.

And Deputy Town Manager Dawn Marie Buckland was in the Air Force for nine years before bringing her skills to the civilian world.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Armistice Day was first officially celebrated a year later, Nov. 11, 1919, to mark the first anniversary of the end of World War I.

In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance, and the November date became a national holiday in 1938.

Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans — living or dead — but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2016 there were 20.4 million U.S. veterans, representing less than 10 percent of the total U.S. adult population.

Additional facts include:

  • 16.1 million living veterans served during at least one war.
  • 5.2 million veterans served in peace time.
  • 2 million veterans are women.
  • 7 million veterans served during the Vietnam War.
  • 5.5 million veterans served during the Persian Gulf War.
  • Of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 558,000 are still alive.
  • 2 million veterans served during the Korean War.

Mr. Wainwright, Mr. Adams and Ms. Buckland were asked to share their military experiences with readers of the Independent.

Peter Wainwright tells of his time serving with the Maritime Merchant Marines. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Peter Wainwright

Mr. Wainwright, 93, who went on to be a staple within the town, started his civil duty at the age of 17. He wanted to be in the Navy, but trouble with asthma prevented him from enlisting.

As a boy, Mr. Wainwright had been attending a boarding school on the east coast that his father attended. His asthma led the young man to move west and enroll in the Los Alamos Ranch School for boys in New Mexico.

While Mr. Wainwright was a junior in high school, the U.S. Army purchased the school in November 1942, according to Wikipedia, and it was closed. The New Mexico campus, then known as Project Y, was a part of the Manhattan Project for use in the top-secret effort to develop the first atomic bomb.

Without a classroom desk to report to every day, Mr. Wainwright went on to fulfill his dream of going to sea.

“In 1943, the war was at its peak; I wanted to go in (to the service) in the worst way at 17,” Mr. Wainwright, 93, explained of why he enlisted.

“But I had a severe history of asthma, which had led me to the West, so I was sure the Navy wouldn’t take me — I wanted to go to sea. So, I enlisted in the Merchant Marine, or the Maritime Service, which was the training arm of Merchant Marine.”

(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Mr. Wainwright said his continuous desire to serve in the war came from a strong sense of patriotism, and he didn’t tell the doctors about his asthma during his physical for the Maritime Merchants. The condition, however, would eventually catch up with him two years later.

The young man was selected for officer training, and went off to the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Long Island, for one year, before being assigned to a C-2 cargo ship, chartered to take military supplies to the troops, as a midshipman.

Mr. Wainwright was part of the largest seaborne invasion in history on D-Day, June 6, 1944, by bringing the bombs, ammunition and supplies in to Utah Beach in his cargo ship.

“I didn’t participate in the landing itself, but we took supplies in to the people who did land,” he said.

“We weren’t supposed to go ashore in France, because the Germans weren’t that far away from where we brought the supplies in — but I managed to sneak off the ship. I wasn’t going to be that close and not see what was going on!”

Mr. Wainwright said he went down the ship ladder on to a landing craft taking supplies in to the troops.

“So I did get to get a little close to the action,” he said.

“Of course we were subject to torpedoing all the time, and we were carrying ammunition, bombs and depth charges and stuff for the Navy. If we were ever hit we were toast, or something like that, fortunately we were never hit.”

Getting killed wasn’t a worry Mr. Wainwright had at the age of 17 and 18, he said.

“I just enjoyed every bit of it,” he said.

When the war was over, troops were given three days off.

“I went back to my family’s farm on Long Island where I came down with a severe attack of asthma because it was right in the middle of rag weed season! So, I was dropped from the military rolls and started college in ‘45,” he said.

Mr. Wainwright did well enough on his entrance exams to be accepted to Columbia University without a high school diploma.

He studied political science and history, his two interests, he says, and graduated in three years.

Next he taught high school classes while earning a master’s degree, followed by taking a job in New Mexico. The Wainwright family eventually landed in Arizona in 1965.

Mr. Wainwright quit the brokerage firm he was with, and became a reserve police officer — first for the county sheriff’s department, and as a reserve police officer on the town’s department.

“There was a murder in Paradise Valley, right over there on the end of that mountain,” Mr. Wainwright explained, pointing to Camelback Mountain.

“Between the Scottsdale police, the Paradise Valley police and county police — they all screwed up. I was in charge of the reserves, but I was also vice mayor of the Town of Paradise Valley. The town immediately fired the police chief and put me in charge of police. I did that for about five years or so.”

At the time, the police department was referred to as the marshal’s department, but many of the officers didn’t like going by that term, Mr. Wainwright says.

“When I came in as town marshal, the police officers there begged me to make it in to a police department, instead of a marshal — people like the feeling of the Old West, but the police officers did not like it,” he said.

“In California, a town marshal is a process server, over here it’s a regular policeman. So, I tried to make good for the fellows — it was something I could do right away because I was vice mayor.”

Mr. Wainwright was first elected to town council in the 1970s, and started running the police department in the early 1980s.

“I was vice mayor, and I had to resign from that job when I took the job as town marshal. When I finished my chore of duty, I went back to being on the council again,” he said.

Mr. Wainwright says one of the biggest issues he faced during his two tenures on town council was re-developing Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard into the four-lane roads they are today.

“We had a lot of flack for improving Lincoln Drive, and then Tatum Boulevard, because they were relatively small roads and Scottsdale and Phoenix were growing up around the town,” he explained.

“The traffic was just going through it in huge numbers, so we went ahead and made it a divided four-lane highway.”

Mr. Wainwright and other members of the council were recalled for the decision to expand what is now the only two main thoroughfares in Paradise Valley. He won his recall election.

Mr. Wainwright has always felt the urge to serve his fellow citizens.

“I have a — and it’s true for several members of my family — believed that we should serve the public in some way,” Mr. Wainwright said.

Other members of the Wainwright family certainly felt the same call, as he noted his father’s cousin was Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright.

Gen. Wainwright was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines, living as a prisoner of war for three years before released. Gen. Wainwright was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his courageous leadership during the fall of the Philippines.

The general’s son, another Jonathan Wainwright, was a skipper in the Merchant Marines and was the one who assigned Mr. Wainwright to his cargo ship.

Mr. Wainwright named his youngest son Jonathan Wainwright, after the general, and he has been serving on Town of Paradise Valley’s Planning Commission for several years, in addition to other volunteer capacities in town over the years.

Paradise Valley Police Department Rick Adams was a Marine during the Cold War. (submitted photo)

Rick Adams

Mr. Adams, one of the original members of a 2004 Paradise Valley police volunteers group, has been a town resident for about 25 years.

He enlisted with the Marines in 1956, and was on active duty for two years, and six years in the inactive reserves.

“After basic training at Parris Island, S.C. and infantry training at Camp Geiger, N.C., I served primarily with the 2nd Engineer Battalion at Camp Lejeune, NC,” Mr. Adams said.

“During several months in 1957, I was transferred temporarily to an Amphibious Training Group and engaged in amphibious exercises in the Caribbean and jungle warfare training in Panama.”

Mr. Adams says as a child, he had planned on enlisting in the Marines after college.

“The time of enlisting was the only thing that changed,” he explained.

“A fraternity brother and I were both accounting majors and had decided we didn’t want to continue in that field, but weren’t sure what we did want to pursue. We decided to enlist in the Marines while we decided what major(s) to pursue.”

The corporal says he and his buddy both agreed later it was best decision they ever made.

“My memories of my time in the Corps are all good. Well, maybe with a few exceptions — no one was really prepared for Parris Island,” Mr. Adams noted.

“Seriously, I loved the training, the camaraderie and the pride of being a Marine.”

In school, Mr. Adams was a four-sport athlete and always very fit.

“That only got better in the Corps. I gave serious thought to staying in, but I had interrupted college to join and wanted to get back and finish, plus I didn’t think I’d like having to move as often as career Marines do,” he said of looking back at being a Marine.

The USMC gave Mr. Adams his first real exposure to strong leadership, something he says served him well and advanced him in his business career.

“And, I would say it reinforced and, perhaps expanded on core values I had growing up, like integrity, courage, teamwork, accountability, initiative, loyalty and unselfishness,” he said.

“Finally, I learned that you can always do more than you think you can. Never quit.”

After receiving an honorable discharge in 1962, Mr. Adams has continued to be involved with the Marines in one way or another.

“I was fortunate enough to have been a trustee of the Marine Corps University Foundation based at Quantico, Va., for 12 years,” Mr. Adams explained.

“I retired from the board in 2011 and was honored to have been given emeritus status. It was an amazing experience and something for which I will be forever grateful.”

Overall, Mr. Adams says he is proud to be a Marine.

“It’s a feeling of enormous pride, of having served with the best, of the emotion the playing of the ‘Marines Hymn’ brings, and then knowledge you are a part of a brotherhood that has existed for 243 years, as of Nov. 10,” he said.

Mr. Adams is now a regular volunteer for the police department.

“We do a number of jobs such as patrolling neighborhoods, schools, churches, trailheads, etc. to show a greater police presence,” he explained of the volunteer group.

“Essentially, we are a force multiplier for our cadre of excellent officers, allowing them to spend more time on things that require the qualifications of a sworn officer.”

Dawn Marie Buckland

Dawn Marie Buckland

For Paradise Valley Deputy Town Manager, the U.S. Air Force provided a means to pay for college and gain unique life experience.

“I was in college and trying to figure out how to finish paying for college. At the time I was studying international affairs,” Ms. Buckland explained.

“As I was looking at opportunities to pay for college, I kind of thought it’d be neat to do something where I could go overseas too.”

She says she considered the Peace Corps, but ultimately chose the Air Force.

“My grandfather was in the Army Air Corp, and then in the Air Force, and my dad was in the Navy,” she explained. “So it had always been part of the conversation as a great option — you get to do something you know is meaningful and matters.”

Ms. Buckland was stationed in Japan for the first three years.

While living and working in Japan, Ms. Buckland visited Okinawa, worked in Korea from time to time and was assigned other interesting tasks.

“When the U.S. turned Hiroshima and Marcus Island back over to the Japanese, I got to go out to Marcus Island for the closing ceremonies, so there’s some pretty amazing opportunities just to be a part of history, be a part of something that matters, that makes a difference,” she said.

In Japan, she was working in the command post coordinating aircraft missions, diplomatic clearances and the American response to certain events.

“We did American patriation missions, bringing back personal affects that were found or sometimes human remains, but being able to bring them back to their families, in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia,” she explained of some of her work.

“A couple of things we got to do over there were with the Kobe earthquake — they allowed us to help, but we had to be very quiet about it. We could bring in blankets, water, those things. I got to coordinate the American response to Kobe earthquake and I also coordinated the American response to the sarin gas attacks on the subways.”

When she returned to the U.S., she was stationed in California.

“When I came back and I went to Travis Air Force Base, I was given a special duty assignment working for the headquarters there for 15th Air Force,” she said, noting she had 30,000 troops and 611 aircraft between the western boarder of Mississippi to the eastern border of Africa.

“The reason I bring all of that up is my job was to manage our ability to go to war. I had to make sure we had the right resources to do that, even in peace time.”

Ms. Buckland says her work today with the city of Peoria and Town of Paradise Valley is similar to her role in the Air Force — making sure the municipality has what it needs to operate.

“I was realizing city management is exactly what I used to do in the military; making sure you have all the right resources, personnel, and they had the right training, equipment, experience, to be able to provide all of those crucial public services,” she explained.

“Every day is different. You’re looking at what’s going on out there, what are the pressing issues and how do we get a win-win solution.”
Her experiences with the Air Force, she says, taught her to bring out the best in herself.

“You don’t try to become somebody else, you try to become the best version of yourself,” she said. “You learn attention to detail, and you learn why that matters.”

The family tradition of enlisting in the military is continuing through the Buckland household, as one of her sons is in the Air Force and her youngest son is thinking about enlisting after graduation, she said.

News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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