Three Sierra Vista residents were inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Friday in Phoenix.
Luis Salaverria, Bennett “Tom” Dingwall and Robert Strain all received their HOF medallions which “is the highest honor awarded by the governor to an honorably discharged military veteran of the state for achievements outside of their military service that significantly benefit and provide inspiration to other veterans,” said the Arizona Veterans HOF website.
Luis Salaverria among those honored
Salaverria, a Puerto Rico native, served in the Army for 20 years, retiring as a first sergeant “I am really excited about … receiving this prestigious honor; it is something I never thought about and never dreamt about,” Salaverria said.
“It is not going to change me — I am going to keep on being the same Luis and keep on helping my people. Until the day I die I am going to be helping, especially the veterans and their families,” he added.
Nominator Judy Carroll with Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 14, said, “Luis has really performed so well and has done so many things in the community. He was really deserving of the title.”
Carroll discussed Salaverria’s role in organizations outside of the chapter, “I know he is involved with several ministries with the church, he goes over to the Lifecare Center, he has been involved civically in Sierra Vista and within the chapter he has done many different things … and is really deserving of this.
“A lot of retirees just want to sit back and not do a whole lot of stuff, Luis is just the opposite. He is happiest when he is out doing something for somebody. Luis is the first person we have nominated for this honor,” Carroll added.
Some of Salaverria’s achievements and activities listed in the nomination packet were: Army budget analysis for 14 years; DAV advocacy contributions; American Legion; and Saint Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church.
His civic activities included: commissioner, Parks and Recreation Commission; vice president, Sierra Vista Senior Citizens Advisory Committee; and Grand Knight, Knights of Columbus.
He was the Arizona Department of Disabled American Veterans 2011 Volunteer of the Year. Salaverria averages 70 hours each month at the DAV, not including time he spends with long-term care veterans.
Bennett “Tom” Dingwall among honorees
The Arizona Veterans HOF class of 2012 welcomed 18 members at this year’s ceremony. Bennett “Tom” Dingwall is another veteran who was inducted last week.
“I think it was a singular honor, and I’m very pleased. It’s not something that you nominate yourself for — someone has to nominate you,” Dingwall said.
“I’ve been up there [Phoenix] twice with people that I recommended that were inducted, so I have some feeling of how it is. It is a nice ceremony, and you know it’s something special,” he added.
Dingwall stated people are not nominated for what they do while on active duty but for what they do when they are no longer in the military. “A lot of people don’t understand that,” Dingwall said.
“I have been a nationally accredited service officer helping veterans and widows with claims. I put in a lot of work. This is one way in which some of your work is recognized, and so I am very pleased,” he said.
Dingwall served 21 years in the Army before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. “I think that recognizing those who continue to serve their community like they served their country is really important,” he added.
Leo Pimple, American Veterans, nominated Dingwall for this award, “because not only is Tom what I call a ‘Soldier’s Soldier’ but he is a ‘Veteran’s Veteran.’ Tom has probably done more for veterans than anyone in Sierra Vista at the present time … but that’s the reason … he deserves the recognition.”
When it came time for the nomination, Pimple did not give Dingwall a choice in the matter of being nominated. He asked Dingwall which award he would rather be nominated for, the Arizona Veterans HOF or the Greater Sierra Vista United Veterans Council Veteran of the Year.
Dingwall chose the HOF nomination.
“I think Tom is very modest … But I think that it means a lot to him, I really do. I just think he is very highly deserving of the award,” Pimple added.
Some of Dingwall’s veterans advocacy contributions listed in the nomination packet were: life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars; AL; DAV; Military Order of the Purple Heart; AMVETS Department second vice commander, and MOPH adjutant and finance officer.
Some of his civic activities and contributions are: current president, Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery Foundation; active Mason; and founding member of the Greater Sierra Vista United Veterans Council.
“His service to veterans over the years is exceptional among his peers, having been appointed in 2002 by Governor Jane Hull in the Arizona Veterans Advisory Services Commission for three years, then re-appointed by Governor Janet Napolitano for an additional three year-term, serving his last year as chairman of that commission,” his nomination packet said.
Robert “Bob” Strain also selected
The third local veteran who was inducted last week was Robert “Bob” Strain, a 30-year Air Force veteran.
“I am honored and feel quite privileged to be considered and accepted [because] the number of acceptances from outside Maricopa County are few,” Strain said.
“All of my activities have been very fulfilling and enjoyable. The top is serving the 12 on City Council, just because of the challenge and value of the contributions,” he added.
Strain was nominated for this award by Air Force Association, Cochise Chapter 109 president, retired Col. George Castle.
“The nomination process is pretty simple. We look around the community, and we look around in our organizations for somebody who has done outstanding work … Bob had a fabulous career in the Air Force … but this award is for people and what they have done since retirement,” Castle said.
“A lot of people retire from the military and play a lot of golf and have a good time, do a lot of hunting and so on, but not Bob. It was very easy to put his package together because there was so much material on things he had done. He was the mayor of Sierra Vista, not just to help the veterans in the area but also to help everybody,” he added.
Castle described Strain’s characteristics: integrity, honesty, straight shooter, energetic, giving, easygoing and a team player.
Some of Strain’s civic activities and contributions listed in his nomination packet were: life member of the AFA; Arizona Town Hall board of directors; Cochise County representative; Cochise Community Foundation, board of directors outreach committee; Sierra Vista Citizens’ Police Academy Association; Sierra Vista City Council; and Sierra Vista mayor.
His advocacy contributions were: member of the Greater Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee; Upper San Pedro Partnership chairman; Partnership Advisory Commission; Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation; and Military Officers Association of America.
Strain was “active in community service for 24 years including associate faculty at Cochise College; Superior Court mediator and arbitrator; Sierra Vista Rotary president; Economic Development Foundation president; Cochise College Foundation Board of Directors president; Arizona Town Hall; and Cochise Community Foundation. Active with United Veterans Council, AFA and MOAA,” his nomination packet said.