Greater Phoenix is rich with military history.
Papago Park was once home to a POW camp, the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force still offers flights in a variety of vintage aircraft, and there are several components of the USS Arizona on display for public viewing.
The spirit of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice also lives on in this city: From the mighty mountain peak named after Lori Piestewa to the legacy of former Sun Devil and Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman.
Some history, however, is hidden in plain sight — which is why we've created this guide to Greater Phoenix's tributes to those who have served (listed from Alpha to Zulu).
Gilbert's 9/11 Memorial is centered around an 8-foot steel girder beam, that once held up the North Tower of the World Trade Center. This piece was given to former Gilbert Fire Chief Collin DeWitt following his three-year quest to bring it home for a memorial. Open year-round, this site also welcomes bigger crowds each Sept. 11, at a community remembrance of the lives lost as a result of the attack on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 in 2001.
The Anthem Veterans Memorial hosts a five-pillar monument — each of which honors a branch of the United States military. On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, at 11:11 a.m. the sun aligns with the monument's pillars to create shadows that form the great seal of the United States. The names of military members are also inscribed on red, white and blue brick pavers within the Circle of Honor.
41703 N. Gavilan Peak Parkway, Phoenix
Arizona's National Guard Society, a private nonprofit, operates the Arizona Military Museum located on the Arizona National Guard Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix's popular Papago Park. The museum is housed in a raw, adobe building was constructed in 1936 as a Depression-era public works project. It served as a National Guard arsenal until World War II, when it was converted into a maintenance shop for German prisoners of war confined at a nearby POW camp. Today, the space houses displays of uniforms, weapons, artifacts, photos and pictures spanning from the Spanish-Colonial Period, to today. In 2021, the museum will celebrate its 40th anniversary.
5636 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix
Service and sacrifice spanning more than three centuries are honored in the first and only known national memorial to American Indian veterans of many conflicts. Located outside the Collector's Room of the Heard Museum, this memorial consists of several sculptures and bronze-colored panels detailing the story of American Indians in conflicts from the 17th to 21st centuries, including a tribute to American Indians who received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration.
2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Home to a variety of aircraft from WWI through Vietnam eras, including the most fully restored B-17 flying today, this museum offers a flight back in time through aircraft and memorabilia displays from WWII and the Home Front through Vietnam. Special exhibits include Tuskegee Airmen, 8th Air Force, The Flying Tigers and The China Burma India Theater, in addition to a host of other exhibits.
Living history flights are available in one of the wing's authentically restored WWII aircraft. Reservations required.
2017 N. Greenfield Road, Mesa
Navajo Code Talker Memorial
There were an estimated 400 to 500 Native Americans in the United States Marine Corps whose primary job was to transmit secret tactical messages in their native tongue. These encryption specialists, Navajo Code Talkers, served in every major battle in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945.
At Central Avenue and Thomas Road, a massive sculpture by Doug Hyde represents a Code Talker in traditional attire carrying a traditional communications device: a flute. The absence of military garb and the emblematic radios emphasizes that the new generation of Native peoples will live in peace as a result of the sacrifices of the Code Talkers. Beginning in 2021, Arizona will recognize Aug. 14 as National Navajo Code Talkers Day, a state holiday.
Pat Tillman Statues
While attending Arizona State university, Pat Tillman helped the team defeat defending national champions, University of Nebraska, in 1996; later that season, he and his team won the Pac-10 conference title and a berth in the 1997 Rose Bowl; and he was also named Pac-10 defensive player of the year. After college, Tillman was selected in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, for whom he played safety until leaving his lucrative career to enlist in the military. Tillman joined the Army Rangers in 2002 and served a tour in Iraq before his death in Afghanistan in 2004.
Throughout Arizona, the legacy of Pat Tillman lives on. At State Farm Stadium, a larger-then-life statue of him in his Cardinals uniform (opposite the Pat Tillman reflecting pool) can be found at in the north plaza, known as the Tillman Plaza.
Inside Sun Devil Stadium, a statue of the College Hall of Fame inductee (pictured above) is positioned as though he's emerging from the locker room with the team.
Open since 2010, the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is located downstream of Hoover Dam. Travelers navigating between Arizona and Nevada may not notice the dedication plaque while crossing the engineering marvel that spans 1,060 feet at 890 feet up.
Lori Piestewa (December 14, 1979 – March 23, 2003) was from Tuba City, Arizona, and a member of the Hopi tribe. She enlisted in the U.S. Army as a member of the Quartermaster Corps, and went on to deploy to Iraq with the 507th Maintenance Company. Following an ambush of her convoy, Piestewa succumbed to her injuries.
In 2008, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names voted to officially change the name of a prominent Phoenix mountain to Piestewa Peak to honor the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military and the first woman in the U.S. military killed in the Iraq War. Today, there is a dedication plaque with her photo at the base of the mountain.
Open since 2020, the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens is a 5-acre development that features a piece of the USS Arizona's boathouse, recovered after the cruiser sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It pays tribute to those aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The memorial — an outline of the exact length and width of the ship, indicated with more 1,500 commemorative columns that illuminate — invites visitors to view the boathouse relic, while paying respect to names of the brave military members who sacrificed their lives that day.
7455 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale
Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza
Created in 1978, and dedicated to former Arizona Gov. Wesley Bolin, this plaza is located in front of the State Capitol building and is home to gardens, paths, benches and fountains nestled between numerous monuments, statues and plaques, including:
4th Marine Division, activated from 1943 to 1945, "The Fourth" fought in the Battle of Kwajalein, the Battle of Saipan, the Battle of Tinian and the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
Arizona 9/11 Memorial, which was unveiled on the fifth anniversary of the attacks.
World War I Memorial, dedicated to the Arizonans who fought in this war, including Phoenix native Frank Luke Jr., whom Luke Air Force Base is named after.
Desert Storm Memorial, depicts various scenes from throughout this conflict, including troops, aircraft, supplies, and more.
Jewish War Veterans Memorial, dedicated by the Valley of the Sun Post No. 194, this monument includes the names of the men who fought and dates they gave their lives in World War II.
Korean War Memorial, "Freedom Is Not Free" is displayed on an archway that leads to a 2-ton bronze bell, which was cast in Korea.
Navajo Code Talkers Memorial, a 16-foot-tall Navajo Code Talkers Memorial was unveiled in 2008. The statue features a Code Talker in combat gear communicating over a radio, and the base bears plaques of code talkers names and a history of their service.
Operation Enduring Freedom Memorial
Purple Heart Memorial, a tribute to combat wounded veterans, displays the medal accompanies by a poem in stone.
USS Arizona Memorial, including one of the ship's anchors, its signal mast and two guns, displayed surrounding nine bowed pillars that hold 1,902 nameplates honoring the Arizonans who lost their lives during six years of the largest and deadliest war in history.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 10 columns of black granite bear the names of Arizonans killed or missing in action in Vietnam.