Veteran’s Spotlight: Featured Veteran — Mike Keele

When the furniture arrives, it’s crated in cardboard containers and needs to be assembled.

Enter key veteran volunteers, including Vietnam Veteran and general handyman Mike Keele, of Rancho Cucamonga, who served with B Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, with the storied 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). As a crew chief Mike was responsible for keeping his UH-1H (Huey) flying in all sorts of weather and against many varied and deadly forms of enemy anti-aircraft gunfire.

The 1st Cavalry was a major helicopter presence throughout the Vietnam War and during Mike’s one-year tour of duty from late 1967 through 1968, he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal with 24 Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Bronze Star Medal for his heroic service to our Country. The DFC was earned flying top secret missions into Laos and North Vietnam attached to the eight-year secret war during the Vietnam War.

“Mike Keele has been a great asset to our team,” said Lee Martin. “He’s hard working, stays until the job is done and receives no remuneration for his efforts, he simply takes pride in his work and being able to help provide free furniture to our veterans.”

During the last year several dozen pallets of furniture have been given to veterans who live in the forty manufactured home communities where more than 600 veterans live across five western states, under the direction of American Veterans Assistance Group (AVAG) Executive Director Lee Martin.

After receiving the pallets of free furniture from an anonymous donor, volunteers and members of the (AVAG) have held a series of “Free Furniture For Veterans” giveaways in communities where the AVAG program has been established under Martin’s direction.

“Getting the furniture out of the boxes, organized, assembled and ready for display takes many hours of work,” Martin said. “Mike is one of our key players who dedicates his time and energy to help with this project and in any other area where I need assistance.”

The father of one son, with two step daughters, six grand children and two great grand-children, Mike stays busy as an active honorary member of the Special Forces Association Chapter 78, where he works tirelessly on fundraisers and special projects. He also enjoys working with high school students in the Rancho Cucamonga area talking about the Vietnam War from a veteran’s perspective.

Through his service in the secret war where the 1st Cav choppers inserted and extracted small, six-man Green Beret reconnaissance teams deep into and out of enemy territory, Mike has earned membership in the Special Operations Association, where he serves on the tally committee in annual association elections.

The Franklin High School graduate majored in Police Science and Administration at CSU, Los Angeles. After graduating in 1973, Mike served as a deputy sheriff with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for 15 years before moving to the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office where he worked for 21 years.

Today, when not assisting veterans or working in other projects, Mike can be found in his garage where he and a small cadre of automotive fabrication aficionados build cars and go-karts from the frame up. And, on occasions, he can be found at the Irwindale Speedway, passing everyone on the track with alacrity and ease.

“It’s an honor to work with Lee and his merry band of volunteers,” Mike said. “The Lord has been good to me over the years and I thoroughly enjoy being able to help veterans in this small way.”

Categories AVAG News | Tags: | Posted on April 1, 2015

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