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Lisa Johnson can proudly say today, "My Dad was a hero."

SHOW LOW – Panel 47E, Line 17 is where U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Michael Poteat’s name is engraved on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. Section 46, Site 515 at Arlington National Cemetery is where he and U.S. Army 1st Lt. Peter Joseph Gallo and U.S. Marine Capt. Roy Lee Griffin Jr. are buried together. All three were killed – burned to death — on March 30, 1968 in Quang Tri Province. Poteat. just two months shy of his 26 birthday, left behind a wife and two daughters.

Barbara Bruce / Courtesy photo  

Having served six years in the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam in 1967, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Michael Poteat was killed at age 25, leaving behind a wife and two daughters. Daughter Lisa Poteat Johnson grew up wondering about her father but learned early on to not talk about him because it made her mother sad.

Lisa Johnson, only three when her dad was killed, was one of those daughters. She learned at a very early age not to bring up anything about her dad because it made her mother sad. In fact, Lisa said her mother was never the same after his death. The 70s were turbulent times. She did not know what to say when kids asked about her father, so she made things up – like she was adopted or her parents were divorced, and she didn’t even know why.

“It was like growing up with a dirty little secret. I did know that talking about dads would silence a room in a heartbeat,” recalls Lisa. But, it didn’t stop her from wondering about her dad.

In school when they studied the history books, Lisa said there was never more than about three lines regarding the Vietnam War. She remained hungry for information. When the movie “The Deerhunter” came out, a movie about three steelworkers whose lives were changed forever after fighting in Vietnam, she said she watched that movie about 15 times.

Years later Lisa found an article in the “Parade” magazine written about an organization called “Sons and Daughters In Touch.” She said she remembers opening it up and seeing kids like herself who were left behind. She told herself, “I am one of those,” and she held on that magazine because she now knew her Dad was a hero.

Still living in Massachusetts where she grew up, that article opened a door for Lisa that she could not close. “Who was my Dad?” she kept asking herself. One day, and those were the days before computers and Internet, Lisa found her way to the Veteran’s Outreach Center searching for answers. She met an Air Force vet who took her under his wing and told her he had never really thought about the kids left behind. That put her on the path to becoming a Veterans Service Officer – someone who helps vets get their disability and other veteran’s matters.

Her continued quest for answers led her to more information and she learned that her dad had actually been listed for three or four month’s after the hostile action as missing in action. It was, however, discovered that he and the other two soldiers had burned in the vehicle. She also learned that her dad was a leader and was liked by almost everyone who met him.

Barbara Bruce / BY Barbara Bruce/The Independent  

Bringing closure to many sons and daughters who grew up after their fathers were killed in Vietnam, the annual gathering of “Son and Daughters In Touch,” has brought close and a feeling of not being alone to many children who grew up never knowing their father. Local VFW Auxiliary raised funds to send Lisa Poteat Johnson and her husband Vince to participate in the event three years ago.

Lisa also had another startling discovery. Though her mom did not have contact with her dad’s family after his death, she learned that her Nana, her mom’s mom, had actually been secretly sending milestone photos of her to her dad’s family throughout the years. When she walked into their home, welcomed with open arms by the entire family, Lisa saw photos of herself as a young child all the way to graduation proudly displayed. “I was dumbfounded,” said Lisa. “It uncovered so much. I had been kept away. I had been a part of their lives but they were not a part of mine.”

White attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for service officer training, Lisa met Jim Campbell from VFW Post 9907 in Show Low and they began exchanging stories. Explaining the program she was doing in Massachusetts, Campbell was in awe of what it could possibly do for local veterans in the White Mountains. Lisa came out twice and fell in love with the Mountain and in 1997 she came for good. But, prior to coming, the last veteran she helped shot himself, and not only did she wonder if she was really helping, but burnout was lurking. And, being new to the Mountain the timing turned out to not be the right time for an outreach center.

Lisa wound up working for AZTEC in Show Low which became TLC, and then worked for The Meadows. She also got involved with the VFW Auxiliary who works closely with the 1404 National Guard and eventually met her husband at the VFW – Vince Johnson, a 26 year retiree from the U.S. Marine Corp and Army. She is currently the Auxiliary’s secretary.

Barbara Bruce / Courtesy photo  

Visiting The Vietnam Wall on Father’s Day three years ago, Lisa Poteat Johnson and her husband Vince Johnson, U.S. Marine Corp and U.S. Army retired, joined hundreds of “Sons and Daughters In Touch” to celebrate their hero dads who were killed or missing in action from the Vietnam War/Conflict.

Though Lisa had been to the Vietnam Wall and found it to be a lonely, sad but proud experience that brought her some satisfaction, it was a visit three years ago that actually brought closure to her years of searching and feeling alone.

The VFW Auxiliary raised money for Lisa and Vince to go to Washington, DC on Father’s Day with other “Sons and Daughters In Touch” to participate in the special Father’s Day celebration at the Vietnam Wall.

While she was there, she became part of a PBS documentary with other sons and daughters and shared her own story telling others what it was like all those years as a daughter without her dad.

“It was the first time I ever acknowledged Father’s Day,” said Lisa. “I bought my first Father’s Day card. Many others had never celebrated Father’s Day either.

Lisa and Vince want to go to Vietnam. “It is on my bucket list,” she said. “I have the coordinates of where it happened. For me personally, I want to get some dirt to bring back – put some of the dirt at the wall, some at the grave site and have some at home. It will be like he is finally home.” She would also would like to connect with the families of the men who are buried with her father. She has not been able to do that yet.

“I am so grateful for all the vets who helped me in my life on this journey. My hope is that the story will help someone else, too.”

You can view the documentary at

https://www.pbs.org/video/wsre-documentaries-they-were-our-fathers/.


Covid-19
Angel Flight West brings PPE to Tribe

SHOW LOW – A two-engine airplane on a very special Angel Flight West mission landed at the Show Low Airport Thursday afternoon, May 14, loaded with PPE to help the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

mleiby / Mike Leiby  

Angel Flight West volunteers (from left) Missa Foy, Mission Assistant Jay Shepherd, Angel Flight West local representative Paula Inhelder, and pilot Mat Perkins, unload PPE at Show Low Airport that will be used on the White Mountain Apache Reservation to help stave off the coronavirus.

The mission was put together and arranged by the organization, With Love, from Strangers, which was founded by Pediatric Dr. Christina Thuet who is also the director of the organization.

Her husband, Dr. Wiley Thuet, is deeply involved with providing healthcare to the Navajo Nation.

He is at this time working both the Navajo and Hopi reservations to help with the COVID-19 outbreak.

With Love, From Strangers, is based in Salt Lake City, Utah near the South Valley Airport where pilot Matt Perkins picked up the medical cargo.

Perkins said he was eating breakfast at a small airport in the valley when he got the call that he was needed for the flight.

“I was almost finished with my breakfast, so I said sure,” Perkins said adding that it was a no-brainer for him because after all, it was AFW asking for his help.

The Mitsubishi MU-2, flown by Perkins, landed at the airport a little after 1 p.m. on the second legs of the mission to deliver the PPE to the White Mountain Apache Tribe reservation. Whiteriver is one of the outlying locations, in addition to the Navajo Nation reservation, most in need of surgical caps, physician gowns and other essential supplies for healthcare workers on the front lines.

From Show Low, Perkins and his Mission Assistant, Jay Shepherd, would make their way back to the valley to be there Friday, May 15 to prepare for a weekend of relaxation.

But keep in mind that Perkins is one of the AFW volunteer pilots who could be called on at any time to take a mission to some part of the west.

But, said Perkins, he kind of likes it that way.

Shepherd has been doing this for AFW for about 7 years and Perkins has been doing it for about 10 years.

Hospitals that AFW pilots have flown supplies to include the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, the Navajo Northern Medical Center, Gallup Indian Medical Center, Crownpoint Health Care Facility, Tsehootsooi Medical Center, Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility and the Hopi Health Care Center.

Paula Inhelder is the local representative for Angel Flight West and the person who tipped off The Independent that the flight was coming into Show Low with PPE designated for Whiteriver.

She and Missa Foy were at the airport when Perkins landed to help unload the boxes of PPE into Foy’s mini van for transport to the reservation where it will be dispersed as needed.

Foy is a Vice President of the local Democratic Party Executive Board and is also a volunteer as much as she can with AFW.

AFW mostly provides air transportation to non-emergency patients for needed procedures at no cost to the patient whatsoever.

But their volunteer pilots with their privately owned airplanes have been used a lot lately to ferry needed medical supplies to the Navajo Nation because that part of the state has been so hard hit by the virus.

Since AFW operates on donations, Inhelder and Foy both said it has been a big help that so many people have donated different things like sheets to make hospital gowns and masks to help staff at the hospitals mentioned earlier in this story.

“People have just been coming out of the woodwork to help,” Inhelder said.

Perkins said he too has been pleased by how much people have stepped up to help.

He started with AFW doing the annual Santa Flights and progressed to medical flights.

He became a pilot right out of high school in 2007 and has been one ever since.

Shepherd said they have done at least 30 trips like the one on May 15 during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For more information about the organization, visit withlovefromstrangers.org or follow them on Facebook.


Wondering for years about her father, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Michael Poteat, who was killed in action in Vietnam when she was only three, Lisa Poteat Johnson visited his grave at Arlington National Cemetery and celebrated Father’s Day for the first time three years ago.


Latest_news
'Please Buy Local' program kicks off this weekend

SHOW LOW – The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by Northland Pioneer College Show is asking everyone to “PLEASE Buy Local”. “Before you log onto a website to order everyday products like pet food, consider going to a local store in your area,” urges SBDC’s business analyst Richard Chanick.

Courtesy photo  

Richard Chanick

“About six weeks ago we (SBDC) foresaw that, at some point, we would be coming out of the pandemic closures and at that point we would all need each other,” he explains. “In response, we developed our ‘PLEASE Buy Local’ program that we have started rolling out to our region.”

Chanick and his colleagues at the SBDC understand the impact of COVID-19 to local small business because they have mentored and advised many White Mountain entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. Turning business ideas into realistic plans that produce income is their area of expertise. This makes them hypersensitive to the fact that many businesses are still waiting on assistance from federal and state programs.

“Through this program, we are now in partnership with Apache County, Navajo County and 14 individual cities and towns,” says Chanick.

Starting this Friday, May 22, you will see yellow flags and banners in Alpine, Greer, Heber-Overgaard, Holbrook, Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low, Snowflake-Taylor, Springerville-Eagar, St. Johns and Winslow.

Starting this Friday, May 22, you will see yellow flags and banners in Alpine, Greer, Heber-Overgaard, Holbrook, Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low, Snowflake-Taylor, Springerville-Eagar, St. Johns and Winslow.

Yellow makes you think

He has been logging hundreds of miles delivering yellow flags and banners to those 14 cities in preparation for this Memorial Day weekend. Shoppers, shoppers and more shoppers is the endgame here.

The yellow flags and banners are intended to help get the word out so that residents and visitors consider buying local before they start to shop.

“What we hope to accomplish is to make people think before they spend their money off of the Mountain,” says Chanick. “What can you buy at a local store in your area that you were going to order through Amazon?”

Partnerships

The local Chambers of Commerce have a role in the program which Chanick describes as “the largest regional effort in modern memory with everybody participating.”

The Chambers are helping distribute the yellow flags and are getting the word out to businesses, residents and visitors.

“The Chambers, local radio stations, the Independent and other media outlets are helping communicate the program far and wide,” says Chanick. Social media is also being employed to help create awareness, synergy and participation.

“The Show Low Chamber is happy to join forces with all the local Chambers and towns and encourages shopping local,” says Show Low Chamber of Commerce executive director Jimmie Applegate.

Some of the funding for this program comes directly from the Small Business Development Center’s rainy day fund which they maintain for economic downturns or unexpected situations like Covid-19. The “PLEASE Buy Local” program also has the full support of the the Arizona Commerce Authority said Chanick.

Upcoming events

The SBDC is planning two more “PLEASE Buy Local” weekends this summer. The Chambers of Commerce will be coordinating these with signature events in their area such as art shows, festivals, car shows and music festivals.

For more information, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or visit the SBDC website at: http://www.npc.edu/sbdc. You can also call SBDC’s Development Center at 532-6170 or toll-free (800) 266-7845.

Remember – the season to shop and support your local business community is here. “PLEASE Buy Local.”