Victor Peterson Jr. of Buckeye is among the 22 people set to be inducted into the UAV Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame in October.
Peterson spent four years of active duty in the Air Force and 18 more in the Reserve. Other than his military career, he worked for a gold mining company as an equipment operator and an emergency response coordinator, and eventually parlayed his experience into a job with the federal government as a mining health and safety inspector.
To this day, Peterson is active with several volunteers and legislative veterans’ groups, including Team Red, White and Blue; the local VFW chapter; and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. Though his service in work and community activism earned him the nomination, and eventually the selection, it came as a shock.
“It was something that I wasn’t expecting. I have always been real active in legislation and veteran events and activities, but it wasn’t on my mind trying to earn this award,” he said.
The hall of fame is sponsored and run by United Arizona Veterans, a coalition of over 50 veterans groups that meet monthly to represent the needs of vets to state and national legislators and provide communication between the different factions.
Each year, a select group of veterans is nominated for their service and work for their community after retiring from the military. A panel of 13 members thoroughly examines each nominee’s credentials in an extensive background check. Then, the Arizona governor must sign off on each inductee.
Past inductees, since the hall was founded in 2007, include important state figures such as John McCain, Barry Goldwater and Pat Tillman.
“There are over 600,000 veterans in Arizona, and there were just 22 selected this year. So, to be part of that group is pretty prestigious,” said Bob Dalpe, the group’s communications director.
Part of Team Red, White and Blue’s mission is to provide social and athletic activities for veterans. As part of the group, Peterson began running triathlons and other endurance races. In those, he met Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, with whom he had become familiar with his legislative work.
She was the person who nominated him for selection.
“Her office called and said they were going to nominate me, and so I had to go down there and put a packet together. That was kind of crazy,” Peterson said.
His realization of the award, though, was considerably less formal, but just as meaningful.
“I saw it on Facebook. I guess they had misplaced my number,” he said, chuckling. “I was looking through the UAV page, and they posted it. I couldn’t believe that’s how I found out.”
Among the 22 inductees from the West Valley are Judge Donald Watts from Peoria and Michael Russell from Glendale.
The induction ceremony will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at the Talking Stick Resort Conference Center, 9800 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale. For more information, visit azuav.org.