Kingman man receives award for promoting awareness of Arizona's fallen veterans

Kingman resident Gene Crego recently received a fourth annual Luke Award.

Crego is one of nine Luke Award winners from Arizona.

The Luke Awards are given to residents, organizations and businesses that help preserve the memory and promote the awareness of fallen Arizona veterans.

The awards are named after 2nd Lt.

Frank Luke Jr., a World War I U.S.

Army Service pilot who was born in Phoenix and the first Arizona recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"I wasn't expecting anything," said Crego of his award, which was presented on Tuesday at Arizona Veterans Memorial Park in Bullhead City.

Crego said he was chosen for the individual male Luke Award for several reasons.

Among these were for his participation in a Support the Troops Rally in Bullhead City in May and a Military Moms' March at Centennial Park on Armed Forces Day in May.

Crego gave a talk on the Vietnam War to junior high students at Mohave Valley Junior High School in September.

He said he told them about his experience in Vietnam ('68-70), the Vietnam Wall, and the Vietnam Traveling Wall, which was in Bullhead City from Sept.

5-11 this year.

While Crego and his wife, Sue, were eating lunch at the junior high school cafeteria, they were surprised by a gift they were given by the students.

"I got 50 thank you letters from the kids.

To me, that was gratifying, but it was more than that because you get a lump in your throat.

Those letters were really something." Crego is available to speak to Kingman area students as well, he said.

Crego later donated two special August issues of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars magazines on Vietnam, prisoners of war and those missing in action.

He and his wife are active in other ways in the community.

They recently volunteered by serving water and Gatorade to runners in the Grand Canyon Marathon.

Crego, who was stationed in the rear as a security guard in Vietnam and did not see front-line action, lost a high school friend in the conflict.

His friend, Liam Casey, was killed after just 16 days in action.

The two both graduated from Paradise High in northern California.

Later in his military career, Crego joined the Japanese-American Friendship Association when he was stationed in Japan for a year.

As part of this group, Crego visited Japanese homes and learned conversational Japanese and taught his hosts some conversational English as well.

Both also learned each other's customs, he said.

Crego served 21 1/2 in the Marines, and retired with the rank of gunnery sergeant.

He now works as a security guard at the Flamingo Casino in Laughlin.

He began working there on July 18, 1990, two weeks before the casino opened.

Four of Crego's children graduated from Kingman High School: Mike, Jeff, Michele, and John Somar.

Crego said people might assume he's bald because he's an ex-Marine.

Not so: He shaved his head three years ago in support of his granddaughter, Taylor Somar, who was diagnosed with cancer at the tender age of four.

She's been in recovery from the disease for just over a year now, but liked the way her grandfather looked without hair.

He's only happy to keep clean-shaven on top for her, he said.