Stories of Our Heroes: Sharing the Lives and Legacies of our Arizona Veterans

Memorial photo of Lt. Col. Gene D. Kleese
February 15, 2024

The Arizona Department of Veterans' Services (ADVS) has launched "Stories of Our Heroes," a new series focused on sharing the lives and legacies of our Arizona Veterans who have been interred in one of our three Arizona Veterans' Memorial Cemeteries (AVMC). 

The series will help keep the stories of our Veterans alive by showcasing the Arizona Veterans who served and sacrificed for our country. ADVS wants to ensure our Veterans will never be forgotten and that the world can get to know them more--not just for their amazing service and sacrifices for our country during their military career, but who they were as people.

To share these Veterans' stories, ADVS needs the public's help! If your loved one has been laid to rest at either AVMC-Camp Navajo, AVMC-Marana or Southern Arizona Veterans' Memorial Cemetery and you want to share their story, please fill out the Google form here.

These stories will be featured on our social media channels and on the ADVS website during the third week of every month. 

Our first Veteran featured in our Stories of Our Heroes series is Lt. Col. Gene D. Kleese, a U.S. Army Veteran who was laid to rest at SAVMC. 

For more than 20 years, Lt. Col. Gene Kleese dedicated himself to the U.S. Army, serving as Field Artillery Officer, Aviation Officer, and Military Police Officer during his time in the military. Throughout his decades of service, Gene was stationed across the United States and throughout the world including in Vietnam, Turkey and more.

His most important assignments during his time as a top-notch helicopter pilot were during his two tours of Vietnam in the 60s when he served in the 11th Air Assault Division/1st Cavalry and was a distinguished member of the Blue Max team where he fought in the Battle of Ia Drang. A decorated military man, Gene’s accolades include three Bronze Stars including one with Valor, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Legion of Merit and many more.

Born in Washington D.C., Gene was a family man, welcoming four children and 10 grandchildren with his bride of 55 years. After retiring from the military, Gene found a new passion with sports, especially baseball and golf. He even opened up his own sports store in Georgia with his wife Barbara and volunteered with his local baseball recreation league. A true golf pro, Gene even made three hole-in-ones during his life. If he wasn’t impressive enough, Gene was also a published author, writing “Gene’s Guide to Golf,” where he rated and reviewed golf courses and wrote another book on his experiences on his tours titled “My Vietnam.”

Gene passed away on March 19, 2014 at the age of 76. He was interred at the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista.

Thank you Gene for your service and sacrifice. #StoriesOfOurHeroes

If you would like to have your loved one featured on our next Stories of Our Heroes, email [email protected] or fill out the form here: