Another First Saturday at the Oro Valley Heirloom Farmers’ Market

Today we had our regular monthly table for OVVSI at the Oro Valley Farmers’ Market, and it was fabulous. We had a good number of people stop and talk and ask us for information. We had four of us there, working the table at one time or another. Deb Larson, from our Oro Valley American Legion Aux. Unit 132 was there for most of the morning, wonderful as always; a terrific, welcoming person. Jim Martens, our excellent Service Officer from Oro Valley American Legion Post 132 was also there. He was able to answer lots of questions, and direct folks to the right place to get answers on all manner of issues. It was great to have him there, and I hope both he and Deb become regulars at the table. They have just the right temperament for it, and are good with people.
Onita Davis was also there, as she is so many First Saturdays, no matter what is on her plate. She always manages to make time, and to make it seem like it is the most important thing she could be doing. I adore her, of course, and am always grateful for her company and her incredible devotion to our Veteran population. She and her husband, Ed, who is also at the table many, many, MANY First Saturdays, are truly generous with their time and expertise with all things connected to Veterans in our area. We have such a good time when we are together, and I think we also provide good service to our Veteran community, while laughing, enjoying the beautiful weather, and drinking way too much coffee!
I will post the pictures, from this morning, of most of us…I think Onita may have escaped, but will check when the pics come in from Jim’s phone. I brilliantly remembered my camera today, and only after I took my first picture, realized that I had left the memory card tucked into the computer at home! Oops! Fortunately Jim and Onita with their smart phones took care of business.
A number of new Post members may have come from our morning’s adventure, and a good number of questions, about this need or that, were all answered, or are on the way to being answered by the experts with whom we connect our Veterans. All good, plus we have such a great time talking to folks. It is always, always worth the time spent there. I come away, feeling refreshed and envigorated, every single month I do it, and that is going on six years, now…we will start our seventh year, in June. Amazing, huh!
So, a big thank you to Deb Larson, Jim Martens, and Onita Davis. It was a good morning. Well done.

Oro Valley Veterans Support Initiative, First Saturday table at the Oro Valley Heirloom Farmers’ Market


Saturday we had our table set up at the Oro Valley Heirloom Farmers’ Market, and spent the morning fielding questions, and giving out information. Lisa Pecoraro came by and spent time. She is the new leader of the Oro Valley Quilts of Valor quilters. We had a great time. She will have a table four times a year at our Farmers’ Market now, too. I think we will have it arranged so our tables can be near each other. We will have a nice Veterans’ niche there. In the meantime, while they gather a table, a cover/tent, etc, I will get a quilt from Lisa and a batch of their brochures, and will put up a quilt behind me next month, hung from our covering. Should make a great backdrop! 
***If anyone or any group/organization has a tent/cover that they would like to loan/donate to Quilts of Valor here in OV for using at the Farmers’ Market four times a year, let me know. You can tell me on here, or email me at I know they will appreciate it enormously. They are a 501c3, but do not spend their money/donations on anything but quilting materials, and I applaud that.

*** You know the kind of cover I mean…let me see if I can post a picture of what is needed…  They wouldn’t need the sides or back, necessarily.  If you have one you can loan, or donate to them, you can email me at:  Thanks in advance!***    acecanopy_2103_7927700

VA Holiday Gift Shop

Friday morning, I spend time down at the VA, volunteering at the annual Holiday Gift Shop, which is set up and provided by all the Auxiliary Units of the American Legion, here in the Tucson area. They set up in Building 4, where the big auditorium is, and there are four or five long rows of tables, with gifts of all kinds, from perfumes, jewelry, and men’s toiletries, and wallets, and on and on and on, right up through, hoodies and sweatpants, and jackets, and clothing of all kinds for both men and women, and toys…and cookies and juice and coffee. There are lots of groups of Veterans who make use of the set up. The ambulatory folks, walk down from their wards, and are able to choose gifts for family members who are in other parts of the country, or right here. The ones for out of town relatives are gift wrapped, and then packaged and mailed, for the Veteran, to whomever they want. The ones for family here are gift wrapped as well. Some people take carts filled with gifts, up to the wards to let those who are bedridden, choose gifts, too. And, then, there are also Veterans who are in outpatient programs, or homeless. They come in and choose a gift for themselves and family, as well, and those can also be wrapped, if desired. All the homeless Veterans are able to choose underwear or socks, in addition to a clothing item and gifts for family members. 
It is a great thing, and goes on over several days each early December. Then, when most everyone has come through, they wrap many of what is left, to distribute Christmas Eve and Christmas day, to more Veterans. It is very amazing to see the array of items. They are not used things. They are all new, and chosen thoughtfully, by volunteers from the Aux. Some stores give a good discount, to enable the dollars to go further, especially when they shop for the items on the day after Thanksgiving.


A few days before Veterans Day, 2015

Yesterday we set up the table for Oro Valley Veterans Support Initiative, at our local Farmers’ Market, as we do nearly every first Saturday of each month, and there were more people stopping to talk and ask questions, than we’ve ever had before. It was a very busy day at the Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley.  The Harvest Festival was happening, with a big craft fair, pony rides, etc, so the place was hopping, and it was lovely to see the wide variety of people who stopped to talk/listen, and get information from us. It kept three of us busy all morning and into the afternoon.
I love it that Veterans of every age and ilk, disposition and political temperament approach us, and that we offer the same thoughtfulness and excellence in information to each of them, no matter who they are, or how differing our personal views are on very basic things, such as war and peace. We have set a good example of kindness and inclusiveness that crosses any and all boundaries of alienation. I’m grateful for that.
We can have a Vietnam Veteran against any and all use of military, now that he has experienced war, and along side of him/her is someone who may still be actively serving, fresh back from Afghanistan, or retired and served proudly, during the Cold War, or Korea or WWII or Vietnam, and would sign up again in an instant. None of that matters.
We want to make sure that no matter what, these Veterans know they are well thought of, and can have access to good care and thoughtful assistance, in whatever areas they require assistance. And, we simply want them to know we are glad that they are home, and that we stand ready to be useful to them as they make however long a transition it takes, for them to fully return to their community.
Sometimes the difficulties they face don’t even show up for a few years after returning, and then they begin to get hit by the impact of their experiences with the force of a ton of bricks. Often a loved one will confide that their loved one has suffered for many years, in silence, seen by all, but acknowledged by no one, including the soldier themselves.
The work is massive, and it cannot be understated how many Veterans AND their families and friends are impacted for life, by the consequences of that one Veteran being in the midst of conflict.
Of course, that is NOT the only focus of our work, but it is always lurking around the corners of what we do, and in the background of many of our efforts.
What I have gotten to do, since helping to establish our OVVSI, has been incredibly humbling. With luck, I’ll be able to continue doing this kind of work for many years. I love the people, and am grateful to each Veteran who lets me see who they are, even a tiny bit.

Sandra Briney

Got It, Use It, Swim Event

A shot of the lanes in the pool used for the event.

A shot of the lanes in the pool used for the event.

I took the Oro Valley Veterans Support Initiative table and hung out all morning, on September 26th, 2015, at Got It, Use It, the first Find Your Fins event at the Oro Valley Aquatic Center, and stayed until the very last swimmer swam. A good number of people stopped at our table, talked, asked questions, and took information, and made a connection with our organization. Some were Veterans, and others who were family members of Veterans. It was worth it for OVVSI to have been represented.
There were able bodied folk…very young to much older, and disabled people of all ages and levels of ability, …and Veterans, some, disabled, and others, not visibly so, and LOTS of all ages and gender represented. There were 7 groups of 6 swimming lanes used, and more than one person in some of the lanes…some groups did relays, so there were sometimes three, in relay, for each of the six lanes, in each of the seven 15 minute races.
It was amazing!  Laura, the founder of Find Your Fins, had tons of volunteers there, all in Find Your Fin t-shirts, and all the participants had them, too. She had an entire high school swim team there….both boys and girls, and they helped out in all areas, and ran games for the kids who were not actually swimming at a particular time. It went off like clockwork. They had fabulous music the whole time, and a great announcer who kept things light and fun. I am continually impressed with Laura. She really knows how to pull off an event.
They also served lunch: excellent tamales, and Eegees came and did their thing, throughout.
I wish you could have all been there with me. I had a great time, and so enjoyed seeing Find Your Fins reaching for excellence, and exceeding all expectations.
If they do another event, Oro Valley Veterans Support Initiative will be sure to attend. It was worth the time for OVVSI. Lots of business cards and info handed out, to Veterans, families of servicemen/women, and people who want to volunteer to be useful to our Veteran population.  Here is a link to their website:

Veterans Heritage Project Book Signing, in Oro Valley


I went to the event Sunday for the book signing for this year’s Veterans Heritage Project book, from Ironwood Ridge High School, and it was wonderful, as always. Last year, I didn’t get to go, as I was meeting up with my daughter and her husband, in Taos, for Mothers’ Day, but this year we were home, so I was able to get there.

One of the original students was back from college to speak at the event. Molly is a wonderfully talented and dedicated young woman, who, along with other friends, were the first group of students here in Oro Valley, to compile enough interviews to put into book form for VHP.

Last year, my dad, Frank Garlington, a Veteran from WWII days, was in the book, and I will always be grateful that I got to interview him for that. We heard things none of us kids had EVER heard before. It was great, just spending the time, listening to him…he was always kind of taciturn, so it was a real treat for me. I couldn’t write up the interview though…I couldn’t edit it down to a manageable size! So, one of the Ironwood Ridge High School students and her electronics engineer Dad worked on it, and did a great job.

This year there were a wonderful group of Veterans there at the book signing, with Veterans from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the Somalian conflict, and the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan all represented by the stories of those Veterans in this year’s book.

Each student who interviewed a Veteran, presents their Veteran, telling a bit about their interviewee, and then the Veteran is honored/applauded. At the end of the introductions of all the Veterans present, they are asked to go sit at tables which are arranged around the edges of the very large room, and those of us who bought this year’s book, walk around and meet each Veteran, and have them sign our books. It is always a very moving time…and sweet. Their hands must be very tired by the end of the day, as many books were signed.

I will have the book I bought at our First Saturday table at the Heirloom Farmers Market in Oro Valley, up off Oracle Road, at the Steam Pump Ranch, on the first Saturday of each month…barring it being too hot, or too windy, etc! We are usually there on the first Saturday of each month, though, so feel free to come and check out the last several years of the books. A copy of each interview(the video tape of the entire interview) and the book for each year, are sent to the Library of Congress for inclusion in their archives, where they will be preserved from this time on.

More and more high schools in the Tucson area are doing this project, and some are even making it into a formal class, as part of the history curriculum during the regular class time each year. I cannot think of a better way for students to really understand our history and how our involvements around the world have affected the men and women who have been in those conflicts.

So, come see the books. You can buy a book…I can give people the contact info on how to acquire one, and can also hook up anyone who is a Veteran, who might like to be interviewed.

These young men and women are very good at what they do, and are sensitive to the boundaries that a person may want to put on how and what they choose to tell, but they are also ready and willing to hear what ever is ready to be told.

It is quite an amazing thing to be part of and to see happening.

American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Symbolizes Nation’s Sacrifice, by Onita Davis

May 6, 2015


American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Symbolizes Nation’s Sacrifice

           ORO VALLEY, AZ —Members of American Legion Auxiliary Oro Valley Unit 132 understand the sacrifice members of our Armed Forces have made to preserve the freedom enjoyed by all Americans. To honor our fallen heroes, auxiliary members will wear a red “remembrance” poppy as a sign of their appreciation on Memorial Day weekend.

The American Legion Auxiliary “remembrance” poppy is a symbol of the price of war and the sacrifice of so many. The 800,000 members of the American Legion Auxiliary, the world’s largest patriotic service organization of women, are asking every American citizen to wear a poppy in observance of Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2015.

“Wear it in honor of those Americans who willingly served our nation in times of war and conflict and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Mary Couture, President, Oro Valley Unit 132.

“In addition to honoring our fallen heroes, members of the American Legion Auxiliary will be paying special tribute to those currently serving in, or recently returned from the Middle East,” she added.

The poppy also honors the hospitalized and disabled veterans who make the red, handcrafted flowers. The poppy continues to provide a financial and therapeutic benefit to those veterans who construct them, as well as benefiting thousands of other veterans and their families by the donations collected from poppy distributions.

In the battlefields of Belgium during World War I, poppies grew wild amid the ravages of war. The overturned soils of battle enabled the poppy seeds to be covered, allowing them to grow and forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed of war.

Join American Legion Auxiliary Oro Valley Unit 132 in recognizing the sacrifice of our veterans by making a donation to the Unit’s poppy fund and by wearing a red “remembrance” poppy this Memorial Day weekend. The Unit will distribute Poppies on May 9, 2015, at the Oro Valley Farmers Market, Steam Pump Ranch, 10901 N Oracle Road, Oro Valley; May 22, 23, and 24, 2015, at Fry’s Food Store, 10661 N. Oracle Rd., Oro Valley; and May 22 and 23, 2015 at Wal-Mart, Oro Valley Market Place.

For additional information, you may contact the Unit at, or PO Box 69246, Oro Valley AZ, 85737, or Ms. Onita Davis at 520-229-1064.


Call for Submissions for an Art Show for/by Veterans

Sent to us by Kate Marquez

Executive Director,Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance (SAACA)

A nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation, advancement, and preservation of the Arts
(520) 797-3959 x 6     C (520) 240-2766     F (520) 531-9225 
7225 North Oracle Road, Suite 112 – Tucson, AZ  85704
Art by Veterans
Call for Submissions
A local gallery is calling for Veterans and Active Duty Military to submit their original pieces of artwork to hang in the community gallery space at the Waddell & Reed Community Gallery.  Sponsored by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance in support of the Creative Arts Therapy program initiative, and in solidarity with Veterans in the Arts, we seek local Veterans and Active Duty Military to participate in the exhibition.
Exhibition Information
The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance invites all self-identifying veterans to submit art to the upcoming exhibition at the Waddell and Reed Community Gallery. The show will feature works representing personal identities or artistic perspectives of each veteran expressed through their artworks and art pursuits in whatever form that takes. SAACA would like to challenge general assumptions about what a veteran is by opening up the conversation about who each person is, or what interests them within and beyond that title. The purpose of the show is to create a space for expression and reflection for veterans while sharing and engaging with the  larger community.


A MESSAGE FROM THE VA SECRETARY An Open Letter to America’s Veterans

We’ve been asked to share this letter with you on our blog, in it’s entirety, so here it is.  I hope it can be useful to Veterans in need of services:


An Open Letter to America’s Veterans



At the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we have one of the most noble and inspiring missions in Government. I accepted this job and joined this mission to better serve you—our Veterans—and improve the delivery of the care and benefits you have earned. It is our privilege to serve you, and I have made clear that as we move forward as a Department, we will judge the success of all our efforts against a single metric—the outcomes we provide for Veterans.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA), enacted less than 3-months ago, goes a long way toward enabling VA to meet the demand for Veterans health care in the short-term. VA has put considerable focus and attention on ensuring the law is implemented seamlessly, without confusion, and without creating hardships for Veterans. This legislation provides authorities, funding, and other tools to better serve Veterans in the short-term. We are appreciative of this temporary measure to improve access while we build capacity within the VA system to better serve those who rely on us for health care.

From June 1 to September 30, 2014, VA completed more than 19 million Veteran appointments in our facilities and made nearly 1.1 million authorizations for Veterans to receive care in the private sector and other non-VA health facilities—a 46.6-percent increase over the same period in 2013. This was all done under existing programs prior to the passage of VACAA, and sets the stage for strengthening existing partnerships between VA and the private sector. We have much we can share with one another to the benefit of Veterans. 

VA has signed contracts with two private health care companies to help VA administer the Veterans Choice Program (Choice Program) under VACAA. The Choice Program is a new, temporary benefit allowing some Veterans to receive health care in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. It does not impact your existing VA health care or any other VA benefit you may be receiving. We will begin implementing this benefit on November 5, as required by law. A call center is now operational to answer your questions and verify your eligibility for this program.

As part of this new program, we are issuing a Veterans Choice Card to every Veteran who is potentially eligible for the new, temporary health benefit. The Choice Card allows Veterans to elect to receive care outside of VA when they qualify for the new program based on the distance of their residence from a VA care facility, or when wait times for VA health care exceed the standards established in law. The Choice Card does not replace the identification card you already use to access other VA benefits; please do not throw away that identification card.

The Choice Card will be issued in three phases. The first group of Choice Cards along with a letter explaining eligibility for this program is currently being sent to Veterans who may live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The next group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent shortly thereafter to those Veterans who are currently waiting for an appointment longer than 30-days from their preferred date or the date determined to be medically necessary by their physician.

The final group of Choice Cards and letters will be sent between December 2014 and January 2015 to the remainder of all Veterans enrolled for VA health care who may be eligible for the Choice Program in the future.

We are continuing to work with our partners—Congress, Veterans Service Organizations, and others—to get the information about this health program out to Veterans in as many ways as possible. Please visit our Web site at where we have provided helpful information on Choice Program eligibility. We will work with our partners to keep you informed as we improve our delivery of high-quality, timely care. 

Thank you for your service and sacrifice.


Robert A. McDonald

Resource Navigation Training from Arizona Coalition for Military Families

Yesterday I went for training in Military/Veteran Resource Navigation.  It was an instructive day.  I was glad to see how many of the things we have learned over the last three years are similar to what these folks are training people to do.  It was heartening to feel sure that we’ve been on the right course, as we’ve built this site, populated it with pertinent/vetted sites, and done the outreach in Oro Valley which we’ve done.  I hope to continue to communicate with the people involved with the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, and to make use of the resources they generously provide to anyone who has an interest in Veteran concerns.  There is no cost for this training.

I recommend anyone who is interested in engaging with Veterans or Military Service people, or offering guidance/assistance to these groups, to get this training, and to familiarize yourselves with their site, in addition to ours.  We offer many of the same resources in dealing with issues our returning Veterans face, and as well as Veterans long done with service, families and friends, and those interested in volunteering.

We need more trained and willing partners to assist the soon-to-come influx of returning Veterans.  Our communities need volunteers and Veteran related agencies to stay available, competent and visible, for/to our returning men and women, so they will be able to see, easily and clearly, that their communities care about them, and are willing to assist in thoughtful ways with their transition processes back into life at home.

We believe there is going to be a large growth in our Veteran population in Arizona, and we need to do what we can to make them welcome, and to make sure that we have the tools to be useful to them, as they rejoin our communities and begin to deal with any issues that may come up from the years and years of war they have experienced.

Many, perhaps most, of our Veterans will make smooth transitions and become leaders in their chosen businesses and communities.  Even those folks deserve our best thinking.  This training is an opportunity to become more aware of what they have been through, and to become better allies to them as they transition back to civilian life.

It offers the skill sets needed to assist Veterans:

  • in finding the best available resources to begin the  process of healing the unseen wounds of PTSD
  • addressing the ongoing challenges/effects of TBIs(Traumatic Brain Injuries)
  • transitioning back into the job market
  • acquiring more education, housing, and many other things
  • by equipping citizens in our community with the tools to be of service to those who have given their service to us, and this country.

I highly recommend this training to the general population, and certainly anyone who is interested in volunteering with Veterans..  It is not a difficult day, nor does it entail an exam at the end of it.  It simply engages each participant, in learning more about what a returning Military/Veteran may encounter/experience on transitioning back to life in our communities, and makes us, the general population, more able to respond and be useful, in ways that show our respect for their service.

These are our people.  We need to welcome them back in the most respectful ways we have available to us.  Training to become a Resource Navigation person is an effective way to show your respect.  You may never actually sit down and use the training as taught.  You may never find yourself in that situation.  Who knows?  But, it would be a thoughtful way to welcome our fellow citizens home…perhaps, even more than parades and parties, or, certainly, in addition to them.

Not everyone is going to be moved to look for an opportunity to receive this day of training.  But, perhaps there are a few of you reading this who will check into it, and follow through.  I admire the ability and skill of the folks who are involved in the training, and the ongoing work that ACMF is doing.

Their next Tucson training session is going to take place on September 30.  You can go to their website, and get information about it, and register for the training.  I will try and post the link to their site here…  If I don’t succeed in doing the type of link that can be simply clicked on, you can copy and paste it in your browsers.  Here is the link:

I was impressed with the information that was given, and the way they handled the training.  We have learned many of the same things they spoke of, over the last three years of Oro Valley Veterans Support Initiative’s existence.

We will use this new training when appropriate, as we continue to set our table up at the Oro Valley Heirloom Farmers’ Market on the 1st Saturday of each month.  Look for us, we get moved around here to there, at the Market, but some of us are almost always in attendance that first Saturday.  The Market is located at the old Steam Pump Ranch, on Oracle Road, in Oro Valley.

So, Resource Navigator Training…a great tool.  Go for it!