Jerry Kolesiak, president of the Veterans Club at Encanterra in Queen Creek, has been involved with various types of service throughout his life.
He enlisted in the military when he was 17 years old and was 19 when he got to Vietnam. Kolesiak was in Vietnam for a little over a year and when he returned home, he was drafted for another three months while new recruits were trained. He retired from the U.S. armed forces as an E5 sergeant.
Kolesiak said he thinks there is a strong comradery among the Marine Corps.
“I think it’s in all services, but especially in the Marine Corps," he said. "I can wear this hat in any grocery store and I’ll have a Marine come up to me and say Semper Fi and shake my hand or salute, give a notice that they recognize I was a Marine. Training is hard and when you come out, you’re a well-rounded individual."
Kolesiak later went to school on the G.I. Bill. He was vice president controller of a $3 million company and also started his own construction company. In addition, he volunteered with organizations Habitat for Humanity and Southern Baptist Convention of Texas for 10 years, where he was the task force director of feeding the state of Texas.
“I deployed so many places I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve deployed. I’ve been to Chile, I’ve been to Haiti, I’ve been through half the United States,” he said. “I’ve been to every disaster possible. I’ve been to floods, ice, storm, hurricanes and earthquakes. You name a disaster and I’ve been at it.”
As a first responder, Kolesiak was called out to assess the damage and determine how many people to bring in.
“A lot of times dust was still settling when I pulled into a site,” he said.
Kolesiak is now retired and he and his wife moved to Arizona three years ago. The first year they lived here he was involved in the Encanterra Country Club as a member, but he wasn’t involved in the activities. The second year he joined the Veterans Club of Encanterra and became president. He was just reelected so he will be president for another two years.
“It’s an honor to be in this position. We have a good board of directors who helps me throw together all these projects," he said. "We have a lot going on throughout the year.”
Upcoming projects include helping HOHP (Honoring/Hiring/Helping Our Heroes of Pinal County) with its Stand Down and Resource Fair that is supporting veterans in Coolidge on Nov. 13 and delivering Christmas gifts to Arizona State Veterans Home in Phoenix on Dec. 23. Last year, club members had to leave the gifts for veterans in the parking lot because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year they hope to deliver them in person to veterans and their families.
“I love my country,” Kolesiak said. “I’ll do anything for it. That’s why I volunteered to build homes for Habitat for Humanity and that’s why I volunteered to work for the Southern Baptist.”