Su-Lin Trepantis was named Veteran of the Year award recently at the annual Big Band Bash celebration.

Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

Honored by the Marana Health Center for her service to the local community, Su-Lin Trepanitis received the Veteran of the Year award at the annual Big Band Bash celebration.

The Big Band Bash is a concert and dance event for seniors that is put on by the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance and Marana Health Center. The event, which took place on Jan. 18, also included a car show, photo booth, silent auction, appetizers, wine and cocktail. The award came as a pleasant surprise for Marana resident, Su-Lin, who’s been serving the community for many years.

“I was really surprised,” she said. “I am very accustomed to giving other people recognition – being recognized myself is a little uncomfortable. It truly is a great honor.”

Su-Lin’s service first began in 1972 when she joined the Army with the intent to become a licensed practical nurse. She went through basic training until being sent to San Antonia, Texas where she was received advanced training in first aid. Upon completion, Su-Lin made her way to Denver, Colo. where she was instructed in combat skill training for medicine. After training for a year, she requested to return to Arizona and work as an LPN at Fort Huachuca. There she worked for two years until 1975 when her three-year contract for the Army ended. 

“When that ended I wanted to go out and adventure,” said Su-Lin. “So I went to New York to practice nursing. There were amazing opportunities there but it was a big city and nice as a visitor but I didn’t want to live there.”

Missing the camaraderie and structure of military, Su-Lin decided to enter into the army reserve while still in New York. After living a year and a half in New York, Su-Lin moved back to Arizona and began working at the Southern Arizona VA Medical Center while still in the reserves. For 17 years Su-Lin was in the Army Reserve where she served at a few Army medical centers, as a reservist at 349th General Hospital during Desert Storm and as a reserve liaison in the Office of the Surgeon General.

After completing her time in the military, Su-Lin returned to college and finished with a nursing degree. She also ended up retiring from the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System after serving there for 26 years. Looking back Su-Lin can say without a doubt that serving is something that she finds a lot of happiness in doing. 

“Quite honestly in the beginning I thought volunteering was about me. Now that I’ve been a community volunteer for about 20 years it’s more about the fun in serving, helping the community and making things happen,” she said.

Although Su-Lin’s time in the military may have ended, her service did not. Currently she is a member of Honor Flight, a volunteer organization that has the responsibility to offer every World War II veteran a trip to Washington D.C. to see all of the WWII memorials and monuments. Throughout the year the organization raises funds in order to make the trip free of charge. Usually Honor Flight travels to Washington D.C. three to four times per year with about 50 veterans. 

Su-Lin is also a part of the Lions Club International and is the advisor of the Marana Host Lions Club. The club recently opened up a Lions Eye Clinic at the Marana health offices. The clinic has affordable vision care for the public. The clinic provides a quality eye exam and a new pair of glasses for $65. There are other services offered as well.

“There is something in community service for everybody,” said Su-Lin. “It only takes one person to make a huge difference.”

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