USAA and ISM Raceway have partnered to honor Heroes in Arizona through their Hats Off to Heroes program. USAA and ISM Raceway will honor a Valley Hero each month of the year to highlight the extraordinary stories and backgrounds of each individual chosen.
"USAA is proud to sponsor The Hats Off to Heroes program with ISM Raceway,” said Gay Meyer of USAA. “The Hats Off to Heroes sponsorship demonstrates our deep commitment to support Veteran and Military Spouse Hiring across the country. Throughout the year, using local market and at-track media opportunities, the sponsorship will highlight the service of a USAA Veteran or Military Spouse. Please join us in our commitment to hiring those who have served."
Learn more about our featured Heroes below.
May 2019 :: Erika Mathias
I was 19 years old, living in Minnesota and attending community college where I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was working as a waitress at a hometown bar and I would see the same people I've known for years. I went to elementary school with these individuals, and soon realized that no one ever leaves this small town. At this moment, I decided to talk with an Air Force recruiter to see what they could offer me. I have always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and make an impact on the world, so I joined. I left for MEPS and swore the oath of enlistment without telling my family and friends because they thought I could never make it in the military. However, after 5 years I can say it has been the best decision of my life. I have a beautiful 2 year old daughter and have lived in multiple areas within the United States since joining the Air Force. I have also found my passion in life, which I'm looking to pursue a career in social work and child protective services once I separate from the military.
April 2019 :: Anthony Chagolla
I am 32 yrs. old and was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. I am married to my high school sweetheart and have 2 boys. I am currently a Firefighter/ EMT on the civilian side and have been for 4+ yrs. I have competed in the World Police Firefighter games and placed top 5 in each event. I have also competed for Arizona’s fittest firefighter and took 3rd place in the state.
I have been in the Arizona Army National Guard for over 6 years. In 2015 I was an active duty soldier working for the Recruiting BN, where I held the position of Admin. NCO as a SPC. In 2016 I competed in the Arizona Soldier of the Year Competition as a SPC. I won the state competition and went on to Regionals where I placed 3rd overall. In 2016 I also attended and completed Air Assault school at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. In 2018 I competed for the Arizona NCO of the Year competition and won. Shortly after the competition I attended and completed PSD school at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. Currently I am serving a 9-month deployment in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel. My primary role here is to act as a Personal Security Officer for various high ranking military officials of the US and Nato allies.
I am a very active and athletic person. I like to play all kinds of sports and anything outdoors. I compete in the Rugged Maniac, Spartan Race Series and Tough Mudder events. I am a very competitive person by nature and like to push myself to be better at everything I do.
March 2019 :: Odette Esho
I was born in Nineveh, Iraq. I am Assyrian, an indigenous minority in modern day Iraq. My father served in Saddam Hussein's regime by subjugation. Being Christian in Iraq meant living under dictatorship and oppression. Many ethnic minorities were forced to convert to Islam to prevent slavery, rape, and death. Life in Iraq was hard for indigenous minorities. Not denouncing our belief meant being marked as a traitor who were to be killed on sight. Our only option was to escape through the mountain in Northern Iraq bordering Turkey. My family carried what we could on our back, traveling by foot through the rough terrain while being shot at and seeking temporary refuge in caves. As we made it to the Turkish border, my father was separated from us and interrogated. Once reunited, we lived in deplorable conditions in a refugee camp. A green tent would be home for the next two and a half years, but my father's background in Saddam's regime provided us the opportunity to seek asylum in America. Growing up, integrity, pride in doing hard work, ethics, honesty, and kindness were values instilled in me by my parents. I wanted to say thank you to America because I owed so much. my way of saying thank you was to join the world's greatest Air Force.
February 2019 :: Terra Thrash
I come from a military back ground. My dad served as a Marine for 20 years and my sister was enlisted in the Air Force. I joined the Air Force at 17 and served 5 years active duty. After that I transitioned into the reserves where I have been stationed at Luke AFB. I have deployed to Iraq and have been stationed in Korea. As I transitioned to civilian life I knew that I wanted to work with veterans. USAA was my first choice and I was lucky enough to be hired as a mortgage processor. I am proud to have been working at USAA for the last 8 years.
I am also a part of USAA’s business resource group called VETNET. I get the opportunity to volunteer at events centered on helping our local veterans as well as bringing awareness to the workplace about the challenges that our veteran employees and members face.
January 2019 :: Randy Smith
I originally began my career in the Army Reserves in December of 1989 as a combat medic. I deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Desert Shield. My unit would go on to support the most forward deployed MASH unit of the war and participating in Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Operation Provide Comfort.
Upon returning from the Gulf War and during a force draw down, I took on another challenge joining the Marine Corps and once again found myself in Bootcamp where I began my career as a plane captain on AV-8B Harriers. After 10 years of enlisted service and achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant, I received my commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in Marine Corps began my career as a Marine Corps Officer.
During my 12 years as a Marine Corps Officer, I served in various units helping run Infantry Battalions, Regiments Recruiting Duty and a Marine Corps Air Station in Japan. My final tour allowed me to work alongside the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and other Services making several trips to the Middle East in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom, finally retiring as a Major in December 2011.
I grew up in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, being in that part of the South, NASCAR was the primary sport. Most of sporting events I watched with my father were NASCAR Races. Specifically, I was and still am a huge Richard Petty fan. Matter of fact the very first book I can remember reading cover to cover was Richard Petty’s autobiography.
Fast forward to my tour on Recruiting Duty here in Phoenix from 2004 to 2007, I remember standing at ISM Raceway on behalf of the Marine Corps sponsorship. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I would be standing on the starting line and in the pits at ISMR as a Marine representing the Marine Corps to everyone in attendance. Hard to believe a kid from the backwoods of Virginia would be standing in uniform on TV in Phoenix watching some of his childhood heroes walk by and that my father would be able to watch all of this unfold on TV.
December 2018 :: Jessica Roza
Jessica has been involved in the military community her entire life & in a variety of capacities. She was born into an Air Force family & was a proud Military Brat. She enlisted into the California Army National Guard as a Paralegal Specialist at the age of 17, during her junior year of high school. She actively participated in the Guard Recruiting Assistant Program enlisting civilians from her local community into the military. She supported her unit’s legal & human resource office in the rear detachment during their deployment to Iraq. She transitioned to the Army Reserves when her spouse had a permanent change of station to Kansas & served as a Financial Management Tech at a unit near Fort Riley, Kansas. She also spent 6.5 years as a Military Spouse heavily involved in the family readiness programs coordinating events & supporting military families during deployment. She has two children who are very proud to be mil-kids.
Jessica stays active in the military community by volunteering with military & veteran organizations- She is currently one of the Arizona state chapter leads for 22UntilNone.org, whose focuses are PTSD/suicide awareness & prevention, as well as resource & referral for transitioning veterans.
She particularly enjoys helping female veterans develop their careers & fully recognize the value they bring to their companies & communities.
Jessica’s current role at USAA is in New Member Solutions as a Senior Specialist on-boarding new members.
November 2018 :: Corey Patton-Mclemore
At age 19 I decided I wanted to do something greater and larger than your typical every day job, and I decided to enlist in the United States Army as an infantryman life, time on the range, deployments overseas, and time away from friends and family. Towards the at ASU and continue to serve in the AZ state guard. During school it became time for me to start a real job that was related to the field I was studying. Knowing I had set up a mutual fund account with USAA I thought I would see what it would take to move out of state and work for this company. I was surprised to find out that there was an office literally in my backyard. From day one at USAA I experienced a welcoming and appreciated feeling. I was able to work alongside veterans like myself and with those who did not serve, but we all had the same mission in mind. I was provided the tools and veteran networking needed to move up in my role and know my future here is bright. I am beyond honored to have USAA as my permanent duty station.