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Phoenix-Area Nonprofit Completes Another Mission Ahead Of Veterans Day

(Photo by Bret Jaspers - KJZZ)
The workers smooth out the concrete with Eli Flores observing.

Saturday is Veterans Day, and people across the region will pay tribute to those who have served in the military.

But last Saturday, the nonprofit Operation Enduring Gratitude got an early start. It enlisted construction professionals and college students to build the ramps for veterans who need them at home. The ramps make it easier for people using a walker or wheelchair.

The group hauled away broken concrete, built wood framing, and smoothed out the fresh stuff.

One particular house belonged to Eli Flores of Maryvale. Flores spent about 20 years in the service. His driveway was cracked, making it treacherous for him in his walker. The group almost completely re-built Flores’ driveway.

“I think these guys that are doing the work around my house are just amazing,” Flores said. “You know, I didn’t realize that there were people who cared so much.”

Operation Enduring Gratitude runs on donated materials and time. Its founder, Charlie Ellis, said they had about 40 people on hand to build ramps at four homes. Ellis said they actually have a difficult time finding veterans they can help.

Volunteers, however, were plentiful at Flores’ house. One of the volunteers, David Ramirez, was in the Marine Corps for four years, ending in 2012. He’s now a Ph.D. student at ASU and active in the veterans organization at the Fulton Schools of Engineering.

To Ramirez, Veterans Day is a reminder of his good luck. He did advanced electronics repair in the military, a job that kept him out of danger.

“I can’t live with myself unless I’m pushing myself to give back to military veterans,” Ramirez said. “Because there’s a lot of guys out there still getting shot. And I didn’t have to.”

He added, “My mission’s not complete until I can help them out.”

Bret Jaspers was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2017 to 2020.