Veterans Heritage Project raises over $35,000 at inaugural fundraiser

Medal of Honor Recipient Sammy L Davis was the evening’s special guest speaker. (Submitted photo)

On Saturday, March 9, Veterans Heritage Project hosted the first “Saluting Stories of Service” Celebration Dinner at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort and Spa.

Hundreds of students, veterans, educators, and community leaders gathered together for an inspirational night as they celebrated the men and women that have shared their stories of service and imparted priceless wisdom to the students they work with.

In total, attendees raised over $35,000 in support of VHP, according to a press release.

“We are so thankful to the community for coming together to celebrate our mission,” Executive Director Michelle DiMuro said in a prepared statement.

“The tradition of support built through this event will help Veterans Heritage Project engage the schools, teachers and veterans who are waiting to be a part of our program. We are encouraged by the wonderful feedback we have received from our guests. A table of guests new to VHP remarked that they learned much more about our mission and ‘stood proud of now being knowledgeable and associated with it’. We also really appreciate how our honorees really made the evening special! One of our guests sharing how he was ‘humbled and honored to be in the company of so many of our national treasures.’”

The Honorable Rick Romley was in attendance to receive VHP’s “Storyteller Award.” Mr. Romley was chosen as the first recipient of this award because his service story imparts inner strength, and his ongoing commitment to veterans and the Arizona community exemplifies “Service before Self.”

Mr. Romley spoke on the ethical and social value of VHP’s mission to connect students with veterans in order to preserve America’s heritage and develop future leaders, as well as the healing power that the program offers to the veterans who participate.

Rick Romley received VHP’s “Storyteller Award.” (Submitted photo)

“Something happens when you begin to tell your story, when you push through the pain and vulnerability of exposing something you’ve kept hidden — you begin to see all the positives those experiences taught you, rather than only the negatives. It is a healing experience like no other,” said Mr. Romley.

Medal of Honor Recipient Sammy L Davis was the evening’s special guest speaker. Like Mr. Romley, Mr. Davis underwent all the human hardship that came with serving in Vietnam.

Mr. Davis spoke about one struggle those who never served may not have considered: what do you write about to your mother, when you’re surrounded by horrors every day? He chose the little things, like the strange smell of Vietnamese mud, or the singular experience of helping an elephant give birth.

And, he spoke about his practice with the harmonica his mother had sent him, about learning to play the song Shenandoah at a friend’s request, practicing in his foxhole in the dim light of dawn.

Mr. Davis closed with the story of his visit to the Vietnam memorial’s opening, how he played Shenandoah in the same dawn light for the brothers that accompanied him and for the brothers that would never leave Vietnam.

When Mr. Davis pulled out his harmonica and played that same haunting tune, the hundreds in attendance listened with batted breath, entranced.

He broke the ensuing silence with the declaration that he would be auctioning off his harmonica that night, with the proceeds going to support VHP. A short bidding war later Dan Powers, president of Dunn/Powers Material Handling Equipment, generously purchased Davis’ harmonica for $4,000.

To learn more about Veterans Heritage Project, visit veteransheritage.org.

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