Donald Watts was among the 22 members inducted into the United Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame on Oct. 18. Watts is a Manistee justice of the peace from Peoria and a veteran of the Arizona Air National Guard who spent time at the Luke Air Force Base.
He expressed humility, wondering what he did to deserve the Hall of Fame honor.
Watts recalled hearing speeches from Gov. Doug Ducey as well as several other influential politicians at the ceremony. He also enjoyed traditional dances from Native Americans to celebrate the inductees.
But, just like when he was nominated in the first place, when he heard his name and received the lapel pin, he was very humbled.
“I am not sure that I really did a lot to deserve this,” Watts said, chuckling.
“But then in front of 500 or so people, they’re reading your name and all your accomplishments, and I said, “Hey, maybe I did something after all.’”
The Hall of Fame is sponsored and run by United Arizona Veterans, a coalition of over 50 veterans’ groups that meet monthly to represent the needs of vets to state and national legislators and provide communication between the different factions.
Each year, a select group of veterans is nominated for their service and work for their community after retiring from the military. A panel of 13 members thoroughly examines each nominee’s credentials in an extensive background check. Then, the Arizona governor must sign off on each inductee.
Past inductees, since the hall was founded in 2007, include important state figures such as John McCain, Barry Goldwater and Pat Tillman.
Watts, after retiring from the military, served for over 20 years as a police officer before becoming a justice of the peace in 2014.
Outside of work, he is involved in such organizations as the American Legion, scouts and the Stand Down initiative, among others. His dedication and service were what earned him the nod for the 2019 class.
Last week, Watts was not sure how he would celebrate Veterans Day. But he will remember those who served before him.