Recipients of the United States’ highest and most prestigious military decoration are being honored with Phoenix’s new memorial project.
The Medal of Honor Row sign installation recognizes 37 Medal of Honor recipients with ties to Arizona. The project was completed in early January.
Blue rectangular signs with white stars line the desert landscapes along 2,600 feet of Pinnacle Peak Road. The installation is adjacent to the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.
The Medal of Honor recipients’ names, the year they were awarded as well as the city or town they have ties to are printed in yellow lettering on each sign. Starting at Cave Creek Road and ending just before Black Mountain Boulevard, signs are posted every 100 feet.
Around five crews from the Phoenix Street Transportation Department installed the signs within a couple of days. The department also designed and fabricated the signs.
The Phoenix Street Transportation Department also designed and fabricated the signs and will perform maintenance if needed.
With this sign installation, people will “hopefully pause and reflect about the sacrifices made by these amazing individuals,” said District 2 Phoenix City Councilmember Jim Waring, who assisted with the project’s execution.
The Medal of Honor was created in the wake of the Civil War and is awarded to service members who risked their lives defending the United States in combat against armed opposition.
Honorees in the Medal of Honor Row include Manuel Mendoza, the “Arizona Kid,” for his heroism during World War II; Buffalo Soldier Isaiah Mays, for his actions during a robbery in the Arizona Territory as well as William Alchesay, a White Mountain Apache leader, for “gallant conduct” during the Indian War, according to city information.
The idea was brought to Waring’s attention by 82-year-old Phoenix resident, Archie Dicksion, who saw a similar installation in Washington state along U.S. Highway 101.
“I thought that was an excellent idea and I thought it was something that perhaps we should do here in the state of Arizona,” Dicksion said.
As 2019 was coming to an end, Dicksion said he contacted the state, county, city as well as Waring, asking for permission to undertake the project.
Dicksion anticipated he would have to raise the funds via GoFundMe, nonprofits, local businesses and veterans organizations, he said. He said he was surprised when Waring offered to ask the city to fund the project and have the Phoenix Street Transportation Department execute its installation, he said.
“That was not something that I would have anticipated,” Dicksion said. “I was just looking for permission to do it, but they stepped forward and did the work.”
Dicksion was in the U.S. National Guard as well as the U.S. Army Reserve. His father fought in World War I and two of his brothers as well as his sister fought in World War II. Two brothers of his also fought in the Korean War as well.
“These are people that volunteered to go out and protect you and me,” Dicksion said about the Medal of Honor recipients. “Arizona should be proud of those individuals.”
“I just felt that we need to do something to let these people know that we appreciate what they’re doing. And I think we need to do that not only as an individual, but I think we need to do that as a governmental agency.”
When Dicksion brought the suggestion to Waring, he said he “loved the idea.”
“I really appreciate Archie bringing this idea to my attention,” Waring said. “I wish I would’ve thought of it myself.”
Waring said even though his office is “pretty frugal” and oftentimes under budget, “I thought that this was a good use of the money that we had.”
The project cost between $7,500 and $8,000, which came from the District 2 reserve funds, according to Waring.
The planning phase of the sign installation was “a little bit of a lengthy process,” Waring said. Much of the planning took place during the dark times of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing face to face meetings from taking place.
Had COVID-19 not interrupted things, the installation would have likely been finished by their original estimated completion date of Memorial Day.
Dicksion originally had an artist design the signs and hoped they would be installed along both sides of Cave Creek Road for peak visibility. This location and the design were not feasible due to the city’s regulations on signage colors, design and location.
While it’s “disappointing” that his ideas could not be implemented, he said he’s pleased that the project was completed, and that people will be able to see it each time they drive by.
A kickoff ceremony was planned for Veterans Day with Medal of Honor recipients and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Waring said. An outdoor event was considered, but because the crowd would have skewed older and more high risk for COVID-19, it didn’t make sense, he added
“It was better to have these American heroes be recognized for their service rather than keep waiting for a time when we could do a sort of a grand opening,” Waring said.
A ceremony to celebrate the sign installation and commemorate the honorees “will happen in the future” when COVID-19 gets to a calmer state and people can safely gather, he said.
Waring said he appreciated the efforts made by city of Phoenix Management Assistant Sasha Perez. Her research and dedication to seeing the project through was “terrific” and “much appreciated by me,” Waring said.
He also emphasized his gratitude for Dicksion being the project’s “driving force,’ saying “he really deserves the credits.”
Dicksion expressed his feelings about seeing the sign installation’s completion.
“I’m glad it happened but I don’t feel that I should be getting any kind of credit,” Dicksion said. “The people on those signs are the ones that are to be honored, they’re the ones who get the credit.”
Dicksion would like to see the city undertake other memorial projects.
“There are lots of people out doing great things and we need to do something to recognize these people, and to me, that’s what this project was all about.”
“A lot of sacrifices were made so that we can live in this great country,” Waring said. “I think that’s something that we should all pause and reflect on.”
—Staff writer Sarah Donahue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org