Richard Tracey, retired Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class, served in the North Atlantic from 1951 to 1954 on the first ever aircraft carrier with an angled flight deck, the USS Antietam. As Quartermaster and Signalman, Tracy and the crew of the ship traveled through Europe, giving touch-and-go demonstrations for their state of the art aircraft carrier.
“I am very fortunate that in my youth, in Downtown Chicago, that I got to go to a YMCA summer camp 50 miles north of Chicago,” Tracey said. “I spent my summers learning, developing and growing up.”
After his honorable discharge, Tracey went on to have a 40-year career as a police officer, serving as a captain for the Chicago Police Department and Chief of Police for a small town in Pennsylvania. Tracey retired and moved to Tucson in the late ’90s.
This weekend, Tracey will be an honoree at the YMCA of Southern Arizona’s military ball from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Tucson Convention Center.
The YMCA has a history of serving military personnel and their families that dates all the way back to the American Civil War, when 17 YMCA associations came together to provide care for wounded soldiers coming off the battlefield. In 1861 President Lincoln wrote to the YMCA to express his gratitude.
“I sincerely hope your plan may be as successful, as it is just and generous in conception,” Lincoln wrote.
Today, the YMCA still honors their tradition of providing support for servicemen and women across the country.
Duncan Moon, director of marketing and communications at YMCA of Southern Arizona, said the YMCA has provided 1,650 service members with free or discounted memberships, 915 children with summer camps and more than 300 swim lessons since 2016.
“If you have a family member who is deployed, if you have a place to go to where people will talk with you and listen to you, it can really have a big impact,” Moon said.
This year’s ball honors local veterans of WWII, the Korean War, holocaust survivors, the 2018 Council of Heroes and active duty, reserve and retired service members and their families.
Among those being honored is Richard “Dick” Eggerding, who served during the Korean War. Eggerding served in the Army in both Korea and Japan, helping with research into prisoners of war. Eggerding said his best friend was shot and killed just 11 days before the ceasefire that ended the war. It’s events such as the YMCA’s Military Ball where the community can unify to tell stories and honor those who have fallen before us, Eggerding said.
“It gets people’s attention,” Eggerding said. “We just don’t honor that sacrifice enough.”
In his retirement, Eggerding founded the Southern Arizona Veterans and First Responders Living Memorial Board, where he and many other service members, such as Tracey, are raising funds to construct a memorial in Oro Valley’s Naranja Park. Their goal is $2 million to begin construction on the monument, with sights set on early 2019. Learn more about their mission at soazveteransfirstrespondersmemorial.org.
JoAnna Mendoza is on the Council of Heroes for this year’s ball. Mendoza served one term in the Navy and later enlisted in the Marine Corps and served as a Marine Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina.
“It’s quite an honor, I was very surprised to have been chosen,” Mendoza said. “When you’re in the military you tend not to feel right being the spotlight.”
Now Mendoza is a military and veteran advisor for Pima Community College. She also works to raise awareness of the issues female veterans are challenged with, such as homelessness and lack of access to resources in rural areas.
“They don’t always find themselves on the street, but they often couch surf and HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) doesn’t recognize that as homelessness,” Mendoza said. “This is a discussion that needs to be had on a large level.”
Mendoza said the Ball can have a big impact on military families.
“Often times they have to really budget to make ends meet,” she said.
Tickets to the YMCA Military Ball are $150 and are available to the public. Formal attire is requested and donations are welcome. Proceeds go toward providing service members and their families with free and discounted memberships, camps and swim lessons.
Learn more about the ball and purchase tickets at tucsonymca.org/events/militaryball.