The personal stories of four U.S. veterans of four wars are being told in a video that’s part of a special recognition of Southern Arizona military personnel and their families this Sunday, May 25, at Casas Church.
“This will be an exciting combination of Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July all rolled into one,” said Glenn Barteau, associate senior pastor at Casas Church. “This emotion-stirring tribute — the first ever of its kind — will pay homage to not only our fallen heroes but all those who have served or are currently serving our country.”
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before,” said Mike Dubs, director of communications at Casas Church.
The concept grew from a eulogy Barteau delivered at a memorial service for a veteran. Afterward, Clarence Dykstra, a Korean War veteran and Casas Church member, came up and said “could I share something with you?”
When the time came, Dykstra told a powerful, graphic, tragic story of his military service, one that he had not shared previously.
“Glenn was so moved by it, and realized Clarence didn’t give a couple years of his life to the service, he’d been changed forever by this experience that is still with him to this day,” Dubs said.
From that conversation grew the idea for Sunday’s tribute, aided by video.
“We didn’t realize at first it was going to be as full-blown as it’s turned out to be,” said Amy Paegel, communications assistant for the church. “Their stories were so compelling, and have so much meaning to us as a church. It’s become more important, more meaningful and more worth spending a lot of time on than we first anticipated.”
During interviews recorded by local videographer Dennis Farris, veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Shield tell their stories, augmented with music and wartime footage.
“They are stories of chopper pilots and landing zones, of morning routines and enemy fire, of peaceful prayers at first light and desperate measures at nightfall — unforgettable memories of the sights and sounds of wartime,” a release said.
“It’s really a spellbinding presentation when you see it in person,” said Barteau.
In speaking, “all four men were the same way,” Dubs said. War experiences were “right below the surface, and as soon as they’d start to talk about the war, you’d see it in their eyes. They were back there, tears would come, and they were reliving this thing.
“For us, this was a real eye-opener. These guys don’t just give a couple years of their life, it is life-changing for them. That’s what we’ve tried to capture for Sunday, is to expose people to the level of sacrifice. Every one of them said the same thing, ‘I am not a hero, don’t try to portray me as a hero, I’m just a guy trying to do a good job, and would have rather been anywhere else’.”
A special ceremony has been arranged to honor each serviceman and servicewoman, active or retired, who attends.
“Families will not want to miss this,” said Barteau. “It’s such a great opportunity to show what it means to all of us that members of our community have served our country so honorably, so sacrificially.”
The event is free, and is being presented at 7:50, 9;15 and 10:45 a.m. Sunday. Child care is being provided, “because some stories may not be suitable for small children,” the release said.
Casas Church has 8,000 members. It is located on La Cholla Boulevard, 4.5 miles north of Foothills Mall. First-time visitors are treated to a complimentary meal in the Casas Food Court.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: A Memorial Day Weekend military tribute.
WHEN: Sunday, May 25, 7:50, 9:15 and 10:45 a.m.
WHERE: Casas Church, 10801 North La Cholla Blvd.
COST: Free and open to the public.
DETAILS: For more information, go to www.casastv.com.