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On August 18th the Church of Transfiguration was home to a Memorial Service for those who lost their lives in Operation Starlite or the Battle of Van Tuong. This battle was the first major offensive regimental size action conducted by a purely US military unit during the Vietnam War. The operation was a combined arms assault involving ground, air and naval units. US Marines were deployed by helicopter, and in amphibious landings.

Our Parishioner, Chet Wauters, fought in this operation. The memorial was a way to honor his fallen comrades. The service included an honor guard from the Apache Junction American Legion and members of the Young Marines.

The honor guard, along with presenting the flag, also read a poem and a prayer, had a bugler play reveille and taps, and retired the colors. The Young Marines demonstrated flag folding with a narration by Chris Whitehead on the meaning of each fold. The significance of the POW table was also shown and explained. The Young Marines with members of the congregation held flags representing the various branches of the military to form a tunnel through which the procession and recession walked.
Chet Wauters gave a reflection on his experience in the battle. The full text follows this article. Father Bob also gave thoughts on the nature of war and sacrifice. His remarks also appear at the end of this article. Communion was given.

A reception followed in the Parish Hall. The reception featured food provided by members of the congregation, a rum and Coke toast and music from the era selected by Chet.
For more information on Operation Starlite check out the following websites:
This is a 64 page PDF written by Colonel Rod Andrew JR., U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. It contains a history of the battle, diagrams, photos, and maps
This site was started by Marine PFC Craig Slaughter 3/3 It has maps, a command diary, personal stories, a guide, and an option for submission.

Chet’s Reflections
My wife and I want to thank you for coming. It is greatly appreciated. Over in the hall is some rum and Coke my wife brought. Rum and Coke was the last drink my fellow Marines and I had the night before the operation. Every 18 August I have a rum and coke. Today it is more coke than rum.

The uniform I’m wearing is the same my fellow Marines wore back then with the exception of Cpl. Carpenter who would have had a silver star, MSgt. Marino and SSgt Collier might have had Korean War Medal. Some of the men would have had good conduct medals and all except for Bell and me would have also had marksman badges.

Carpenter, Principe and I first met at Pendleton. We were all going to our first duty station – new PFC’s. We realized we would be assigned to the same company. When we reported for duty we were also assigned to the same platoon. SSgt. Collier, Sgt. Williams, Sgt. Bush and LCpl. Hailer were all members of the 3rd Platoon. There were others. Although, I still can see them; I can no longer remember their names.

After our first landing in Vietnam, six Marines were detached from the 3rd Platoon and assigned to the 2nd Platoon. For a second landing Sgt. Gilford, LCpl. Flores, PFC Bell, Sgt. Massey, Cpl. Duval and myself made up the six from 3rd Platoon who were assigned to the 2nd Platoon. After that landing the 2nd Platoon detached us and assigned us to 2/4 in the field. We did not rejoin the 3rd Platoon until the beginning of August.

MSgt. Marino, PFC Brown and I met in the 2nd Platoon and they along with Cpl. Kailue, Cpl. Craig, LCpl. Pass, Pfc. Reeff were on the supply operation with me along with about 33 or more whose names I don’t remember. I spent most of my time detached from the 3rd Platoon and the six of us spent most of our time attached to the 2/4.

The battle was 52 years ago and it seems like yesterday to me. I still see the men who served with me - some more vividly than others. Some I see clearly in my memory and wish I could remember their names.

In this operation, we carried on a tradition of our parent units. Our battalion was destroyed in WWII, Our company was destroyed in Korea and in Vietnam it was our platoon. We started the operation with a reinforced platoon of around 42. Twenty-four hours later there were eight Marines walking and one being supported.

Pfc Bell was a special Marine. My wife remembers him most. When the six of us were finally ordered to rejoin the 3rd platoon SSgt Collier had orders to send one of us on R and R. He picked me. But, I wasn’t interest. The discussion between the SSgt and me became a little heated. Pfc Bell interfered and offered to go in my place.

The platoon that was assigned from our company for the operation was made up of tracks from all three platoons. Pfc Bell’s track was assigned from the 3rd platoon and since Pfc Bell was gone on my R&R, SSgt Collier assigned me to take his place. After we left for the operation SSgt Collier was informed that the plane Pfc. Bell was on, the plane I should have been on, went down and all hands were lost. Pfc. Bell was dead.

Being assigned to Bell’s track was ok with me as I knew both Sgt. Gilford and LCpl Flores from Hawaii. We had been detached together since March. LCpl Flores was an excellent Marine. You could always count on him. To be fair, except for one Marine who didn’t leave Hawaii with us, you could count on everyone always. To be poetic, when the drums rolled, bugles sounded and pipes played you never had to look to see if the Marine was where he was supposed to be. They were. The last time I saw Flores he was next to me in a paddy, he turned to say something and was shot in the head.

Cpl. Kaluie I saw around, he was in the maintenance section. It was a matter of manhood with Cpl. Duval that we never had maintenance work on our track. I swear things were held together with bailing wire and bubble gum. But, Cpl. Kaluie was assigned to us for this operation. When we made the landing Cpl. Kaluie asked to do a perimeter patrol. During this patrol we came across a number of dead VC and Cpl. Kaluluie asked me to make him a promise. He asked. I refused. He asked again. I refused. He asked again. I agreed. I kept that promise but not in the way we both thought.

When we were assigned to column 21 Cpl. Kaliue joined our crew – don’t know if he was assigned to us specifically or if he just joined us. He was in the rear port hatch. The last time I saw him, I was making sure he was dead. A round had hit the port hatch and killed him.

Other Marines died that day - some in my arms - others next to me. The only other one that hits me is Pfc. Brown. He was a 2nd Platoon Marine who I had become friends with when we were ordered back to the beach for two week maintenance. I had been assigned mess duty to keep me out of trouble – it didn’t work. Pfc. Brown was a good friend. I didn’t know he had been killed or how until I was in the Army Hospital in Okinawa.

18 August 1965 – we were supposed to be going to another Marine Company. It didn’t happen. Instead we were led to a battalion area. The only problem was we weren’t on the same side. Twenty four hours later we were defeated. Nine made it out alive. We brought our dead back with us.

It’s been a long time since that August day in 1965, but I remember that day and my friends and all the Marines that were there with me. Those memories still affect me. Those Marines, who I remember to this day, served us and the citizens of South Vietnam. I have been told that a veteran is a person who signed a blank check to their country, payable up to and including his or her life. My friends signed that check and paid it in full. Today we honor them and all who paid that check in full

Memorial Service Vietnam Vets
Fr Bob Saik
I want to join Chet Wauters in thanking all of you for coming. Thank you for being here to honor the brave and dedicated Marines who fought for us. Thank you for supporting our veterans who have come here.  Thanks for supporting Chet Wauters and his family.  
We come together to remember those who have served and protected us. Today, we specifically remember those who fought in a battle near Van Tuong, Vietnam. The battle began on August 18, 1965.  We remember all those who served in Vietnam and we remember those who have served in other wars.
We come together to be thankful.  We thank all who have served in our military.  We are thankful for their commitment to care for us, their dedication and their willingness to fight and die for us.
We come here to honor those who have served.  Our coming together today seems like a small thing but each act honors those who served.  It seems especially important to honor those who served in Vietnam for that conflict came at a time when many Americans did not support our involvement in that war.  While our military personnel did not choose to fight, they often took the brunt of dissatisfaction from people who were upset over the situation.  
Certain events impact us so greatly that they are forever etched in our minds and in our hearts.  I never fought in a war.  My memories are about where I was when 9-11 occurred.  But for Chet Wauters and others that are here, their memories relate to something so harsh that many choose to never discuss them.  Chet has shared some of the events of that day with me and I am appreciative of his openness.  
In our chats, Chet and I have talked about what is a dilemma for some who serve in the military.  Christians speak of being peaceful.  Jesus told his followers to turn the other cheek.  Our ten commandments say Thou shalt not Kill.  When we just consider those words from the Bible, we may think that Jesus believed in peace at all costs.  
While Jesus did not create some kind of armed rebellion, he fought verbally for the oppressed.  He spoke out for the widows and orphans, the hungry and the homeless.  Jesus demonstrated his willingness to go beyond words when he overturned the tables of the money-changers.  He often argued with those who disagreed with his view.  Jesus reached out to everyone, including soldiers.  He healed the child of a centurion, a soldier. We must find a way to seek peace in all that we do, even when we fight to protect ourselves.  
In our lesson today, Jesus told his followers that he was the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep, who fought against the wolf as he protected his flock.  I believe that Jesus understood fighting may be necessary to overcome the evil in the world, to defeat the corrupt ones.  I believe that our armed forces protect us from the wolves of the world.
We seek solace in the words of Scripture.  Today, we said together Psalm 23, a reminder that God is with us even in the most difficult of times.   We read from the book of Wisdom.  It says the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God.  While we may think their leaving was a disaster, they are now at peace. We heard the words of Jesus, “whoever has faith in me shall have life.”
The members of our armed forces continue to protect us from danger. Some have laid down their lives for us, for our protection, and for our freedom.  We are thankful.  May God continue to bless us and may God continue to bless those who serve and protect us.  Amen.


Painters needed! On June 27th a group from Transfiguration will be painting a classroom at Refugee Focus in Phoenix. The classroom is used for English language instruction for refugees. The classroom is in need of an update. We would love to have you join us. For additional information contact Fr. Bob Saik or Dea Podhajsky at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Transportation details will be announced. Refugee Focus is located at Central and Osborn in Phoenix. Refugee Focus is administered by Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. The classroom is used for teaching adult students who are not literal or fluent in English.

Our choir sings at the 10:00 AM service on Sunday mornings as well as at two Christmas Eve services, Ash Wednesday, and services on Maundy Thursday, Easter Vigil, Easter.  We rehearse on Sunday at 11:45 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m.

We are always looking for new members to join us.  We perform all types of music.  We also are interested if you play a musical instrument and would be willing to perform with us or individually during the service.  Come give the choir a try.

The Church of the Transfiguration is a campus that consists of three separate buildings.  The Church, the Parish Hall and the parish house.  The Church is primarily used for church services and special events like the movie night.  The Parish Hall houses the church offices, a meeting area outside the offices, the kitchen, a children's education room and the parish hall.  The parish hall is where we gather each Sunday after services for coffee, snacks and fellowship.  

Message from the Rector

The Church of the Transfiguration is a warm and loving community where the people seek to listen and understand each other as we join in community on our spiritual journey.

This History was written by a member that was at the church during our beginning years.

Church of the Transfiguration elects three vestry members each year.  The members serve for a three year term.  Our current vestry consists of the following individuals who have provided briefs biographies of themselves.

  • Steve Dingle Steve Dingle has been attending the Church of the Transfiguration for a little over one year, and since joining our community has been very active in being both a reader and serving at chalice at the 8:00 am service. He has also been involved in the design and building of the stained glass windows that we have had posted on the narthex doors. Steve is a second generation Arizonan, and has been married 40 years and has two children. He has a life long interest in theology and bible, and looks forward to retirement in a few years from his duties as a psychiatrist and a medical director to devote more time to church activities. His other interests include music, woodworking, electronics, and dancing!  Steve is the chief medical officer for the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners for the Arizona Department of Health Services. 
  • Steve Lazlo
  • Lynn Whayne Graff I grew up in the Episcopal Church and have been active in a number of ways: Altar Guild, ECW, Daughters of the King, EFM, Sunday School, Choir, Handbells, Vestry and the Chili Pepper Farm. For the past 12 years I have lived full time in Arizona, attending St. Mark's then the Church of the Transfiguration. My work was with University campus housing in Kentucky, Texas, and Arizona, serving as a Residence Hall Director, Coordinator of Residence Hall Programs, and Director of Housing.  In those positions I worked closely with students, of different ages and backgrounds, and supervised staff, both student and full time staff.  My responsibilities included overseeing the hiring and training of staff, coordinating programs, work schedules, evaluations, and dealing with problems concerning people or facilities, implementing the housing assignment and move-in process for students as well as special groups, and coordinating with other university offices and services as needed. After leaving the housing field in 2006, I enjoyed learning a whole new line of work by becoming a barista at a coffee shop in Gold Canyon, and served as assistant manager while working there for about 5 years.  I left the work force to become a full time care giver for my husband until he passed away.
  • Elena Little My husband Larry and I moved to Apache Junction from Checotah, Oklahoma in December 2010.  Elena is a Certified Fraud Examiner with a compliance background in banking, non-profit, and healthcare industries, currently employed as an Investigative Researcher for Humana's Special Investigations Unit. She enjoys listening to music and watching cooking shows on the Food Network, but her greatest joy in life is keeping up with the lives of her grandchildren, aged 20 to due in August 2016.
  • Pat Gutsch  I enjoy writing, painting, photography, travel and interacting with a variety of people.
  • Meg Stresen-Reuter Meg is a full-time resident who works as a speech-language pathologist. Originally from Illinois, she has lived in Arizona a total of 25 years, and loved every minute of it! Her favorite things include singing in choirs, enjoying nature, and playing with her dogs.   
  • Eileen Chandler I am a retired nurse-manager originally from Illinois where my son, daughter and their families still live. I have resided in Arizona full time since 2014 with my significant other of 20 years Ron Sparks.I have been active on many levels within the Episcopal Church for more than 48 years. I have participated in bell and church choirs as well as holding Sunday School director/teacher positions and serving as a vestry member. I joined our warm and caring Church of the Transfiguration in 2014 and am honored to have been selected to serve our members on our vestry.  I particularly enjoy small group gatherings such as Bible study/worship, lenten programs, special committee meetings and church music! I firmly believe our church is at a crossroads for change and innovation within our community. Because of this I foresee opportunities for growth through our church leadership as we remain open to God's calling to a church vision and action through prayer
  • Dea Podhajsky  I have been attending the Church of the Transfiguration for four years. Before moving to Arizona, I lived and taught in Washington. Along with being on vestry, I manage the church's web and Facebook page. I Walk on Wednesdays and lead the book discussion group. The trip my husband Lee and I took to Honduras with other church members to El Hogar in Hoduras  was a life altering experience. Tutoring refugees and travel are my passions.
  • Ruby Seyffert

2017 Wardens and Officers:  

  • Bobbie Lafford, Senior Warden
  • Don Strachota, Junior Warden
  • Joan Crossman, Treasurer
  • Ann Williamson, Clerk    

Clergy and Staff:

  • The Reverend Bob Saik, Rector
  • The Reverend Dan Herron, Deacon
  • Gary Quamme, Minister of  Music
  • Sarah Mihail, Director  of  Children’s Ministry
  • Linda Ostmeyer, Office Manager 

The Church of the Transfiguration is located in East Mesa, Arizona near the intersection of Signal Butte and Broadway.  Go east on Broadway from Signal Butte.  Turn right on Mountain Road.  The church is on the right about two blocks from Broadway.

Our address and phone:                                    Our Email is:
514 S. Mountain Rd., Mesa, AZ 85208                   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: (480)986-1145                                       Our web site is:


 Below are listed the Transfiguration church leaders.  The vestry members are listed under a separate tab.

Sunday Services & Bible Study

Sunday Services

8:00am   Holy Eucharist Rite I

10:00am Holy Eucharist Rite II


9:15 am  Sundays, Adult Education
9:45 am Sundays, Youth Education
               during the school year
10:00am Wednesdays Bible Study

Wednesday Service

9:30am  Holy Eucharist

First Wednesday Service

9:30am Holy Eucharist Rite II

Bible Verse of the Day

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