Arizona Centennial: Arizona Military Museum

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Designated as an official Arizona Centennial Legacy Project, the Arizona Military Museum chronicles the military history of Arizona. Museum Director Joe Abodeely shares some of that history as he describes what the museum has to offer.

Ted Simons: In less than nine months, Arizona will celebrate its 100th birthday. Each month leading up to the state's centennial, "Horizon" takes a look back at what made Arizona what it is today. Tonight we take a look at military history by visiting a place that specializes in the subject. The Arizona military museum has been around for about 30 years. It's housed in an historic Adobe building located at the Papago park military reservation in Phoenix. Visitors get a tour of military history from long before Arizona was a state to the current war on terrorism. And all points in between. Here to tell us more about the museum is Joe Abodeely, a retired U.S. army colonel, Vietnam veteran, and director of the Arizona military museum. Thanks for joining us.

Joe Abodeely: Thank you for having me. This is a great opportunity to tell people about the museum.

Ted Simons: Tell us. What's it designed to do?

Joe Abodeely: To inform people of the military history of Arizona from the conquistadors to the enduring freedom, Iraqi freedom, Desert Storm. We have a Medal of Honor display and we cover from the conquistadors and the Spanish colonial period and the U.S. Mexican war and early Arizona and the Indian wars. Everybody seen all the cowboys and Indians of Arizona has seen Apaches and the rough riders. Everybody forgets, those rough riders that Teddy Roosevelt was talking about were from Arizona. And then we have a display relating to on the border. A guy named Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. And when the Arizona the first infantry regiment became the 158th was sent to France as fillers and came back and trained and became the famous bush masters who was MacArthur's point element in the islands. Arizona has a fantastic military history.

Ted Simons: Talk to me now about who operates the museum and how it's paid for.

Joe Abodeely: Well, I'm glad you asked that. Because we're so proud of this. We were incorporated in 1975, but actually put the museum together, actually opened in 1981. Our board and I were elected to do all of this in 1980. Our board, our docents. We run it, nobody gets paid a penny. Nobody has a paid salary. We do all that. We get no funding except the guard is gracious enough to give us the building and utilities. So when we say we don't get anything: that's a lot. But we operate it and clean it. I'm the president and if you come on the weekend, you'll see me sweeping the floors and all of my other board members do the same thing.

Ted Simons: We're looking at some of the things you have in the museum now, What do you have there? And do you have special one-of-a-kind sort of stuff?

Joe Abodeely: We have uniforms, we have weapons, we have machine guns and rocket launchers. Oh, yeah, we have very esoteric, very specialised stuff. I remember, a World War II guy came in with a grand rifle and we get weapons assigned to us, I sign for them, from the Center of Military History. We're a certified museum by the Arizona historical society and an Official Arizona Legacy Centennial Project.

Ted Simons: You referred to this earlier but there's a story here regarding the building itself. This is a historic building?

Joe Abodeely: It's on the historic register - took us a long time to get it there. It was built in 1936-37 by the Works Project Authority. One of those public works project that people talk about and hint about, and when we get the old people on when even more gray hair than I do, I don't even have to explain what the WPA is to them. I'm old enough to probably say I wish they'd bring those back and when we -- it's an Adobe building, the walls two feet thick and I'm telling you when all of the rest of these new buildings are dust, it will be standing. It's the building where the motor poll was and the prisoners of war, the German Nazi U-Boaters who were captured and sent to the POW camp on the 64th street and Oak-- worked on the diesel engines.

Ted Simons: I'm sure there's people watching this program saying, German POWs 64th street and Oak, that's quite a story out there.

Joe Abodeely: Real story, real story. They must have made somebody really angry that these guys raised in the Alps and the cold weather climate were sent to Arizona.

Ted Simons: The museum is designated as an Arizona centennial legacy project. What does that mean?

Joe Abodeely: That means we are doing things consistent with what the centennial program is. And that is to portray things relating to the history of Arizona. There's one section I left out and I need to mention this. We have one room, about 3,000 square feet, dedicated to the Vietnam War. This is important, because most living veterans today are Vietnam veterans. I spent my life dealing with World War II and Korea. But now we Vietnam vets are the old guys we used to make fun of. And the Department of Defense has a project called the 50th commemoration of the Vietnam War Project. And Arizona has done as past resolution -- passed resolution March 29th Arizona Vietnam veteran day and in conjunction with the department of veterans' services we'll put on a dinner October 22nd honoring Arizona Vietnam veterans.

Ted Simons: So talk to us no about future plans for the museum. Are things expanding, are they built out here, what's going on?

Joe Abodeely: That's an excellent question. We, like all museums, have used all of our space. Some say, Joe, why not expand? Well, right now -- we can't expand. We don't have that funding and money is tight and the arts usually get the least of funding. And what we do is get donations and give our own money. The department of veteran services has helped to fund the dinner and we're thankful to Colonel Joey Strickland whose retired for the money to put this on and we want to be a vehicle for people to come in and honor veterans from all of these wars and the Vietnam veterans, they're around -- this is the only museum in the state that has a 3,000 square feet room honoring them. We have a Huey in the middle of a room, we have a GPU-4, we have a gun jeep in the middle, we have uniforms, AK-47 -- it's really a neat museum.

Ted Simons: Hours and location.

Joe Abodeely: It's located at 5600 east McDowell. You go in the main gate of the Papago park military reservation, you enter off Bushmaster Boulevard. And we're open every Saturday and Sunday, 1:00 to 4:00. But we're gonna be closed June, July and August. You'll have to wait until September again. The rest of this month, we're open, but closed during the summer.

Ted Simons: Saturday and Sunday, get on over there.

Joe Abodeely: That's it.

Ted Simons: Um, last question. We have a minute left. What do you want people to take from a visit to the museum?

Joe Abodeely: I want them to appreciate the service of all of these people who have served their country honorably. A lot of people say they care about veterans. I always tell my board, I don't really believe that's true. I'm a Vietnam veteran. And I'm proud of that. And -- but I try to make people aware of the service of veterans and I want them to be aware of this great history. This really colorful military history that's made the great state of Arizona.

Ted Simons: A lot of folks are surprised when they go in there, aren't they?

Joe Abodeely: Yes, they are.

Ted Simons: We'll keep in touch with you, we want to make sure if the expansion projects ever do happen, we want to hear about them.

Joe Abodeely: Thank you.

Ted Simons: The Phoenix Coyotes have a home in Glendale next year, but after that, lots of questions remain. "Arizona Republic" reporter Rebekah Sanders has the latest. Tuesday at 7:00 on "Horizon." We want to remind you if you enjoyed tonight's program and like to see it again, you can catch it on the web at That same website allows you to see what we've had in the past and what we plan for in the future and, again, an opportunity to review all of our programming. That's We'll talk Coyotes and recall elections tomorrow on "Horizon," but that's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening!

Joe Adobeely:Director, Arizona Military Museum;

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