Service, Courage & Sacrifice
In honor of Independence Day, Las Vegas Black Image Magazine pays tribute to the U.S. military and local veterans who have risked everything to protect our freedoms. In their own words, these heroes recount their experiences and provide incomparable insight into the sacrifice required to defend the greatest nation on earth.
Mr. Arby Lee Hambric – Veteran, United States Navy
I am a United States Navy veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. I am the only African-American in the state of Nevada to wear the Korean War medal. I worked in the cotton fields of Texas for 16 years prior to being drafted into the segregated Navy. I was drafted into the Navy when I was 18 years of age and served for 20 years.
After that, I retired and married. I came to Las Vegas in 1976 after my wife passed away. The Fourth of July, which represents our United States’ independence, means a whole lot to me. Especially since I went into a segregated Navy. I write about my experience in my book, “To Thee I See: From Picking in the Fields of Texas to Cooking for Dignitaries on U.S. Navy Ships, a Journey I Wouldn’t Change.” As I look back and see how far we have come as African Americans, I am so proud that Nellis Air Force Base has four African-American four-star generals on active duty and one black woman who is an admiral.
Today, the military is one of the best hopes for some of our youth. I encourage many young men to go into the military. For example, I recently encouraged one young man who was denied entry, and he was finally accepted. He is now at West Point. If it hadn’t been for World War II and the draft, a lot of us would still be working in the fields. And when President Truman desegregated the military, the doors of opportunity opened up. I can say that I served in the U.S. Navy gratefully, and when I was drafted I took the oath to serve my country.
The military helps build character because it practices discipline. This is a challenge that we have with some of our young people today. Some of the children are restless and not going to school. That kind of thing is never tolerated in the military, and that is why many were helped. Now, it is up to you to join the military, because there is no longer a draft.
This Fourth of July, I will spend the day as I do every year: Placing flowers and flags on the gravesides of fallen soldiers, which I have been doing for 50 years. I am an honorary flagbearer, and I have presented the American flag to thousands of widows and families whose loved ones have died while serving in the military. I am currently 88 years of age, and the military family is what we do and who we are. I am a United States military veteran. That’s all I know.
For more information on Arby L. Hambric and his new book, visit www. totheeIsee.com
Senior Chief Frederick Tuiel – United States Navy
I am presently Division Officer for Southern Nevada Navy Recruiting, and I have been in the Navy for 16 years. When I started out in the Navy, I was trained as an electrician. I worked as an electrical engineer on an aircraft carrier. I did everything, including fixing lights, elevator systems and engines. I went to Atlanta, Ga. to work as a Navy recruiter from 2004 to 2007. Thereafter, I went back to Virginia, where I boarded another aircraft carrier and worked as the Electrical Division’s Lead Officer. After that, I became a Watch Commander.
The Fourth of July represents a lot more to me than just fireworks. The word “independence” means that you can do whatever you put your mind toward. And as long as it is legal, nobody can stop you. I am fortunate to have been exposed to wonderful opportunities and to see the world. Sometimes I say to myself, “Wow, I can’t believe I made it to this point.”
Originally, I said, “I will only join the military for four years.” But 16 years later, I am loving every decision I made to join the Navy and stay in. I met a lot of great mentors, many of them now retired, who inspired me and contribute to who I am today. I am 35 years of age, and will have the option to retire from the Navy after 26 years of service.
My proudest moment while serving in the military was May 1, 2011 — when we captured and killed the terrorist Osama Bin Laden. We went over there and we did our job.
Military Police Officer – Sharon D. Potter Army National Guard
The Purple Heart of Honor was presented to me after I was injured during combat. The vehicle I was being transported in was blown up by a roadside bomb. It is a blessing to have all my limbs. But I sustained a concussion, contusions and bleeding in the ears. This occurred shortly after Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. People often ask, “How was it as a woman in the Army?” I say, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” We worked as a team in the military, and I didn’t expect any special treatment because I was a woman. I wanted to do as my fellow soldiers did.
As a black female, I was the only non-commissioned officer in my unit. We did have a black female lieutenant, and I was assigned as a squad leader. My position as squad leader required me to carry a nine millimeter gun and a shotgun — along with other gear. I held my own.
There was a moment when I truly felt the impact of what it meant to be an American. It was when I first enlisted, and I remember boarding the bus to be transported to the plane that was to take us to the war zone. I remember the bus driver looking somber as we all boarded the bus, and we had just heard that the plane of U.S. soldiers that went before our plane to the war site was shot out of the sky.
I remember sitting beside a very young man on the bus, and he just looked at me with very wide eyes. I sat down beside him and said, “Hello.” He was very quiet, but as the bus pulled away, he said to me, “I am scared.” I remember thinking about the huge sacrifice we as soldiers make for the United States and all its citizens. I just told the young man that he had to have faith and everything would be okay. I never saw that young man again, and often wondered what became of him.
I want the people of the United States to appreciate those in the military who keep us safe and protect the freedoms we enjoy. It is a blessing to be able to walk out of your door and not worry about a bomb. To not worry about being shot at and having bullets whiz past your ears. This was an everyday occurrence for us as soldiers, and we were bombed every single night.
U.S. citizens are able to live in comfort. We can drive down the street and not worry about whether there is a bomb in a pothole. Many people don’t think about that. They only think about the freedom to feel secure. I know there is a lot of violence in the world, with guns being in the hands of people that shouldn’t have them. But for the most part, when you leave out of your door in the morning, you do not have the mindset that anything will happen to you. Being in the military and in a war zone, you are always on guard.