Arizona Military Museum

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The Arizona Military Museum has been around for about 30 years, housed in an historic adobe building in Phoenix’s Papago Park. Visitors get a look at history long before Arizona was a state to the current war on terrorism and all points in between. Joe Abodeely, retired Colonel, Vietnam veteran and the director of the Arizona military museum, talks about the facility.

Ted Simons: The Arizona Military Museum is housed in an adobe building in Papago Park. For more than years visitors to the museum have had a chance to look at and study artifacts from past wars. Joe Abodeely, retired coronel and director of the Arizona military museum, tells us more about the facility. Good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

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

Ted Simons: Well us about the museum, what's it designed to do?

Joe Abodeely: It's designed to inform people about the military history of Arizona, and Arizonans who served in the military, from the conquistadors, as you pointed out, all the way up to the modern wars, operation enduring freedom, Iraq freedom, Desert Storm, we have a display for women in the military, we have a medal of honor display, and of course we cover from the conquistadors, the Spanish colonial period, we cover the U.S.- Mexican war, early Arizona, let's see after early Arizona, the Indian wars you know everybody has seen the old cowboy Indian movies. Apaches and Geronimo, Cochise -- everybody has seen the cowboy and Indian movies, and then we even do the rough riders, everybody forgets, maybe they don't know, those rough riders were from Arizona. Then we go right after that, we have a display relating to on the border, Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, -- forces chased him and that's when the Arizona first infantry regiment became the one was sent over to France in World War I as fillers, they came back, trained and became the famous bush masters, who was McArthur's point element in the islands. Arizona has a fantastic military history.

Ted Simons: Talk to me about who operates this museum and how are things paid for?

Joe Abodeely: Well, I'm glad you asked that. We're so proud of this. We were incorporated in 1975, but we put the museum together actually opened in 1981. Our board and I were elected to do all this in 1980. Our board are our docents. We run it. None of us get paid. Nobody has a paid salary, we do all that, funding, we get no funding except the guard is gracious enough to give us the building and they -- The utilities. When I say we don't get anything, that's a lot. But we operate it, we clean it, I'm the president and if you come down on a weekend you'll see me sweeping the floors and pounding nails, and all my board members do the same thing.

Ted Simons: We were looking at some of the things in the museum. 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, we have rocket launchers, we have -- We have some very esoteric specialized stuff. We get them from people will come in, I remember early on, World War II guy would come in and hand his grand rifle in, or bring in a Japanese flag with signatures of all the people. We also get weapons assigned to us. I sign for them from the center of military history. We're certified museum by the museum history and the Arizona historical society and we're an official Arizona centennial legacy project.

Ted Simons: Talk to me now about -- You refer to this earlier, but there really is a story here regarding the building itself. This is a historic building.

Joe Abodeely: The building is on the historic register. Took us a long time to get it there. It was built in 1936-37, by works project authority. One of those public works projects people talk about, I'm old enough to probably say, I always say bring that back. When we get the old people who have more gray hair than I do I don't have to explain what WPA is. But they built it, it's an adobe building, the walls are about two feet thick, and I'm telling you right now, when all the rest of these new buildings are dust that adobe building will be standing. It was the building where the motor pool was and the prisoner of wars, the germane Nazi U-boaters captured and sent to the prisoner of war camp on 64th street and Oak, they were brought over and they worked on the diesel engines.

Ted Simons: I'm sure there's some people watching this program saying, germane POWs, 64th street and Oak? YES, indeed. That's quite a story out there.

Joe Abodeely: Real story. Real story. They must have really made somebody angry, these guys who might have been raised in the ALPS and the cold weather climate were sent to Arizona.

Ted Simons: Talk to us now about future plans. It sounds like things are expanding, or are you pretty much built out?

Joe Abodeely: That's an excellent question. Somebody mentioned that to me the other day, we like all museums have used all of our space. Some people say, "Joe why don't you just expand?" I said, well, right now what I think I'd rather do -- Because we don't have that kind of funding, and money is tight for other things and as you know the arts usually get the least of funding. So what we do is we get donations, we give our own money, the department of veterans services has helped fund this dinner we're going to put on, we're thankful to get this money to put this on, but I think what we want to do is be a vehicle for people to come in and honor veterans of all these wars. As I said, the Vietnam veterans are now those old World War II veterans this, is the only museum in the state that has a 3,000-square-foot room honoring Vietnam veterans. We have a U-EY in the middle of the room. A U-EY helicopter. We have CPU4, you know those - We have a a gun jeep in the middle. We have uniforms, we have AK-s -- It's really a neat museum.

Ted Simons: Hours and location.

Joe Abodeely: It's located at 5600 east Mcdowell, go in the main gate of the Papago Park military reservation, enter off bushmaster Boulevard about 5600 east Mcdowell, would be the best way to get in there and we're open every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4, but we're going to be closed June, July, and August. So wait until September again. The rest of this month we're open, but June, July, and August we're going to be closed during the summer.

Ted Simons: Saturday and Sunday get on over there.

Joe Abodeely: That's it.

Ted Simons: Last question, what do you want people to take from a visit to this museum?

Joe Abodeely: That's an excellent question. 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 have tried 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 has 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: Joe it's good to have you hear. Good luck with the museum. We'll keep in touch with you because we want to make sure that if these expansion projects do happen, we want to hear about them.

Joe Abodeely: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you.

Joe Abodeely:Retired Colonel, Vietnam Veteran and Director, Arizona Military Museum;

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