Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona

2015 - 2016

Norman Sponcey, US Marine Corps 

Veteran Veteran

Norman Sponcey was born and raised in Putnam, Connecticut.  Upon graduation from high school in 1947, he enlisted into the Marine Corps where he was assigned duties as Assistant Drill Instructor for the 2nd Recruit Training Battalion and ordered to play football for the Parris Island Marines.

In 1950 he was assigned to the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade at Camp Pendleton and made the Pusan, Korea, Amphibious landing with BAKER 1/5 (“Baker’s Bandits”).  He then joined the 1st Marine Division and participated in the Inchon landing and the subsequent liberation of Seoul.  The next landing was Wonsan Harbor where he was assigned to FOX 2/7 (Fox Hill) and fought in the famous breakout of the 1st Marine Division from the Chosin Reservoir to Hungnam; for over 78 miles the Marines fought their way back through 12 Chinese infantry divisions.

Following his Korean service, Norman completed numerous assignments with the Atlantic Fleet in the Europe and the Mediterranean.  He also served in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Camp Upshur in Quantico, Virginia.  Norman participated in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and many other key assignments.

Sergeant Major Sponcey then served three tours in Vietnam.  He first served as the 1st Sergeant to the initial Combined Action Platoon/Advisory Group to the South Vietnamese Army; then with the combined combat engineer battalion (7th Engineers) and lead patrols.  During his third tour he served as the Squadron Sergeant Major with VMF 533 (AW), 1st Marine Air Wing in Vietnam and Japan.  His final tour was as Battalion Sergeant Major for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California.

Norman served 26 years in the Marines and is now retired, living with his wife in Sierra Vista.

James L. Kidd, US Navy

WW II, Korea & Vietnam Veteran

Jim Kidd was born in 1926 near Fort Worth. Texas. At 17, his father signed a waiver allowing him to join the Navy; his mother was furious as Jim was an only child.

 After boot camp, Jim attended aviation ordnance school in Norman, Oklahoma, then aviation gunnery school in Yellow Water, Florida, and operational flight training in Jacksonville, Florida.

While assigned to a SBD Dive Bomber Squadron in the South Pacific, his aircraft encountered anti-aircraft fire, and he was forced to bail out; the first time he ever jumped out of a plane.  Jim spent his 18th birthday on a life raft.  When the USS Puffer (SS268) arrived for the rescue, Jim’s life raft had drifted too close to the shore.  He had to put a line over the sub’s periscope and be pulled further out to sea before the sub could surface to take him on board.

Jim flew missions in the Marianas, Saipan, Guam, and Tinian from the USS Yorktown.  When the Yorktown returned to the United States he was transferred to the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California.  In 1945 he was on one of the flying boats that crashed in San Francisco Bay, and he ended up in the hospital for a month.  His next assignment was on the USS Franklin (CV13), which sustained the most damage and casualties in the entire Navy during WW II.  Jim then served as an instructor in the aerial gunnery school in Miami, Florida until ordered to Korea in 1950.  He also served in Vietnam.

Jim ended his 30-year career in 1973.  Moving to Tombstone in 1981, he met the famous clown Emmet Kelley Jr. and became his personnel photographer for 20 years.  Today his freelance work keeps him busy, involved, and young.

Sonny H. Coble Jr., US Army

Vietnam Veteran

 Sonny Coble graduated as an Electrical Engineer from Tennessee Technological University in 1967 where he was in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).  In 1968 Sonny entered into active duty in the US Army and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.  He attended Signal Officers Basic Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, Radio Systems Officer Course at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and was then assigned to Fort Huachuca US Electronic Proving Ground for two years.

Sonny next assignment was to Vietnam – 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment where he supported the planning and coordination, installation and operation of communications systems.

During his 20 year career, Sonny’s service alternated between tactical communications and electrical/communications engineering.  Assignments included divisional signal battalion operations officer, company commander, combat unit communications-electronic staff officer, and logistics officer.

Upon returning to the United States he served at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Los Angeles Air Force Station, and the U. S. Army Electronic Proving Ground, Fort Huachuca.  Sonny retired in 1988, working as a contractor at the Fort and is a very active community member.

John W. Claybourne, US Army

Vietnam Veteran

John Claybourne was raised in Wakefield, Virginia. Upon graduating from high school at age 18 he enlisted in the US Army.  After completing his basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he was assigned to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he was trained at the Military Police School. As a Private his first duty station was at Fort Bragg NC.  John went on to serve in Korea along the DMZ, at a missile site in Pennsylvania, with the Armed Forces Police and was part of  President Kennedy’s funeral procession.

He was sent to Vietnam in 1968 where he served one year.  Again the Army moved him to different stations as needed: including Fort Richardson, Alaska, Fort Lewis, Washington, and Fort Gordon as a Drill Sergeant with the Military Police School.  Finally he was assigned to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where he retired in 1979 as a First Sergeant  after a 20 year career.

Upon retirement, John joined the Sierra Vista Police Department where he served for 18 years. As a horse person for most of his life, he competed in rodeos and has been the Director of the Little Britches Rodeo here in Sierra Vista.  John also is an accomplished banjo player.

Gary C. Shreve, US Navy

Vietnam Veteran

 Gary Shreve enlisted in the United States Navy in 1962, completing boot camp and Hospital Care School in San Diego, California.  Assigned to Adak, Alaska, as a Navy Corpsman Gary worked in air and sea rescues operations.

Gary was then sent to Field Medical School at Camp Pendleton.  Upon graduation, he was assigned to the Fleet Marine Force for duty as a corpsman.  In preparation for deployment to Vietnam Gary went to Okinawa for training in guerilla warfare.

In 1965 Gary was attached to Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and participated in the 1st amphibious landing at Chu Lai. Serving as a corpsman Gary Shreve risked his life to save the life’s of others.  As a Marine General told Gary, the Corpsmen go into service to saves lives, not to take them.

Gary was discharged in 1966 to the Marine Corps Reserves.  Retired, Gary lives in Sierra Vista, has become an artist, and serves as a director of the Huachuca Art Association.

Earl Devine, US Army

Vietnam Veteran

Earl Devine was born and raised in New York.  After graduating from high school, he attended Oklahoma State University, where he majored in  mathematics, and joined the ROTC Program.  Upon graduation, he went to Fort Bliss, Texas, for Officers Basic Training.

In 1958, Earl’s first assignment was with Air Defense Artillery in the San Francisco Sector.  In 1961 he continued with Air Defense Artillery in Germany for three years.   He was promoted to Captain and then assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma,  with the Field Artillery School. He was subsequently assigned to Fort Huachuca, Arizona,  at the Combat Surveillance School.

His next tour of duty was in Vietnam to with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Intelligence Center, in Saigon where he spent a year.  Later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1973, Earl retired in 1978 after serving 20 years.

Shortly after retiring, he returned to Sierra Vista where he has been very active in raising funds supporting many veterans projects such as the new chapel at the Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery and establishing the SAVMC Foundation. He also has been active in the Military Officers Association of America and the United Veterans Council. In 2010 Lt Col Devine was inducted into the Arizona Veterans’ Hall of Fame and in 2015 he was named Veteran of the Year by the United Veterans Council.

Martha Montevallo, US Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

WW II Veteran

Martha Montevallo was born 1922 in Opelika, Alabama. Both of her parents served in the Army in WWII and Martha said it was inevitable that she would serve when she learned in 1942 that they were forming the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Martha had to wait a year, until she was 21, to join and be called to active duty. She was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, for four weeks of basic training and six weeks of Motor Transport Training.

Martha was deployed to Fort Riley, Kansas, to the Cavalry Replacement Training Center at Republican Flats where she did clerical duties and drove various types of vehicles including jeeps, pick-up trucks, reconnaissance cars, sedans, half-tracks, ton-and-a half  Ford trucks, the “deuce and a halfs,” and armored personnel carriers. She also did road guard duty and performed first-echelon maintenance, including changed tires.  Martha is a petite women and the vehicles she handled did not have power steering or power brakes and were very rough riding.  If given the opportunity Martha would gladly drive these vehicles again today.

Martha was honorable discharged in 1946 and returned to college earning her bachelor’s degree.  She was married, raised a family, and moved to Huachuca City in 1962 where she has happily lived for many years, saying she wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Jim Willig, US Marine Corps

Korea Veteran

Born and raised in Schenectady, New York, Jim graduated from high school the same year the Korean War broke out. Enlisting in the Marines, he completed boot camp in 1953 at Parris Island, South Carolina, where he then served as a Drill Instructor and played football for the Marines. Jim completed Officer Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, and subsequently completed flight training at Pensacola, Florida.  Although assigned as a Marine Aviator upon graduation, due to heavy Marine casualties in Korea he was sent to Camp Pendleton, California, for Advanced Infantry and Cold Weather Training.  Jim then served with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and 1st Marine Division FMF, in Inchon, Korea.  His unit was involved in heavy fighting with the Chinese in the “Nevada Cities” campaigns along the Imjin River.

Staff Sergeant Willig served 12 years in the Marines.  His later assignments included serving as a member of the Inspector-Instructor staff and recruiter in the Boston, Massachusetts, where he also played Service Football.  He served as a Platoon Sergeant with the 146th Infantry Company, USMCR in Albany, New York.  Honorably discharged 1965, Jim now resides with his wife in Sierra Vista.

Virginia C. Gannon, US Army

Vietnam Veteran

 Virginia Gannon graduated from Mississippi Southern University in 1951 and signed up for the Women’s Army Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant.  Virginia completed her Basic Officer School at Fort Lee, Virginia.

During her 26-year military career, she trained Vietnamese women who were integrated into the Vietnamese military and worked with the men to accept them. In Germany, Virginia was promoted to Colonel and served as the Executive Officer for the General responsible for military operations in Europe.

Returning to the United States she was assigned to Fort Huachuca in Military Intelligence.  Believing this to be her last duty assignment, she moved her parents to Sierra Vista.  When Virginia was reassigned to Washington, DC, her parents told her to have a nice trip and that they were staying right here.  She returned to Fort Huachuca and retired in Sierra Vista in 1977.

As an active member of the community, she served on City Council and as a volunteer in many civic organizations.  Virginia was inducted into the Arizona Military Hall of Fame in 2007.

Nacho Valenzuela, US Navy

WWII Veteran

Nacho Valenzuela was born on Fort Huachuca in 1925 where he lived until 1932 when the family moved to Brown Canyon.  His father was a wood cutter in the canyon along with other Hispanic families.  Nacho tried to enlist into the US Navy in 1942, but he was only 17 years old. In 1943 he was drafted into the Navy where his first assignment after basic training was on the USS Ralph Talbot (DD390).  He was a Coxswain 3rd Class and was a shell handler for the 4-inch shells.  During a Japanese attack he was injured from the gun recoil while attempting to keep the conveyer of shells from becoming jammed.  He later served on a Fleet Tug AFT 110 in the same capacity.  Nacho said the Navy asked for volunteers to serve on the Fleet Tug and he was just about the only one to volunteer.

Discharged in 1946 he returned to Fry (now Sierra Vista).  In 1947 he began a 41 year career on Fort Huachuca as a laborer.  At the end of his career he was the branch chief of sanitation systems.  Nacho continues to live in Sierra Vista.

Mike T. Bianchino, US Marine Corps 

Vietnam Veteran

Born in 1939 in Albany, New York, Mike was the epitome of a Marine. He enlisted on his 17th birthday and lived that life with gusto and pride as a Marine for “29 years, 11 months, 15 days,” reaching the rank of Master Sergeant. He cherished his designation as “Top.”

Serving three tours in Vietnam as a “grunt,” Mike, a Force Reconnaissance Marine,  was particularly proud of his service as a scout/sniper with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (The Walking Dead) in the 1960s. Mike learned Thai and Spanish at Monterey Defense Language Institute and in 1971 was reassigned to field intelligence as an interrogator/translator. After tours of duty at Camp Pendleton, California, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and Chicago, Illinois, he and his family “landed” at Fort Huachuca in 1984. He served as NCOIC of the tactical interrogation branch and also as an instructor. He was selected instructor of the year in 1985.

During his service, Mike was awarded the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal with Valor Device, campaign medals from the Vietnam War, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

Following his military retirement, Mike worked 10 years at R.W. Bliss Army Health Center at Fort Huachuca.  Well known around the Sierra Vista area as “Mikey,” he sang in many venues, providing enjoyable evenings.   After a valiant struggle with ALS. M/Sgt Bianchino passed away in 2014.

Archie W. Sutton, US Air Force

Gulf War Veteran

 Archie Sutton enlisted into the US Air Force in 1981 and took his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.  After subsequent training at Lowry Air Force Base, he became an Aircraft Armament System Specialist where he worked on the armament release systems for B-52 aircraft.  Archie was then assigned to Guam, followed by duty to Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan, where the B-52 was converted to Cruise Missile capability.  He remained there until the Cold War was slowing down at which time the B-52 were again armed with conventional bombs.

Archie was sent to Egypt and was assigned to a refueling wing for KC-135, which was used to perform air-to-air refueling during the Desert Storm Conflict.  Upon completion of this assignment, Archie returned to Wurtsmith Air Force Base and continued to work on the B-52 aircraft.  He retired from active duty in 2005 as a Master Sergeant, having served 24 years for his country.

Asked the best thing that happen to him while serving and he promptly said “that is where I met my wife.”  When he was asked the worst thing that happened during his Air Force Career he had to think long and hard to come up with a response.  He finally said that the routine was the hardest part for him. Today Archie lives in the Sulphur Springs Valley with his wife and family and does fine metal sculptures.

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