At their service: City establishes Armed Forces Commission to continue its recognition of veterans and those serving in the military


The City of Fishers recognizes veterans with annual Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Vietnam Veteran’s Day ceremonies and recently installed a new Gold Star memorial. But according to Deputy Mayor Elliott Hultgren, Fishers hasn’t done enough to honor active members of the military.

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Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. El Ahlwardt pauses with his wife, Kathy, and children, Ryan and Heather, in 1988. (Photo courtesy of El Ahlwardt)

On Jan. 17, the Fishers City Council unanimously approved the creation of an Armed Forces Commission, which held its first meeting March 2. Commission Director El Ahlwardt, a retired U.S. Navy commander, said the commission will formally introduce its members at the National March 29 Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration.

Hultgren, who serves in the Navy Reserves, came up with the idea for the commission as a way to honor those currently serving. His family benefitted from the Hometown Help for Heroes program, in which the Fishers Dept. of Public Works removes snow and mows lawns for families when a head of the household is deployed on active military duty.

“I was working for the City of Fishers and was mobilized in the Reserves to go to Africa for a year,” Hultgren said. “When I was gone for that year, Public Works was plowing my driveway and mowing my lawn for me. We’ve done a tremendous job to date honoring our veterans and those who have served our country. This Armed Forces Commission takes all that and asks the questions, ‘What’s next?’ and, ‘What else?’”

Hultgren said the commission plans to meet monthly and “create and ideate all things military service and patriotism.”

“One thing I think we will tackle fairly early on is, how do we make this a life cycle of service? We focus on those serving and those who have served, but how do we honor and promote those beginning to enter into the military service?” Hultgren said. “We want to be a city that honors them and celebrates them and figure out ways to promote and support them. How do we take the programs in place and enhance them?”

Eleven appointees make up the commission. It is comprised of Ahlwardt and a nominee from American Legion Post 470; a nominee from OneZone Chamber of Commerce; nominees from the Hamilton Southeastern Schools superintendent for a faculty member and a student; and five at-large members, three of which should be are veterans. Members are Hultgren, Ahlwardt, Vince Semona, Javyer Burtner, Mathew Rapp, Tiffanie Ditlevson, Eddie Rivers, George Stavropoulos, Nicole McNab, Leah McGrath and Jim White.

“It’s some really impressive human beings,” Hultgren said. “It’s a really neat, really cool group of folks. We feel if you get really engaged with people and bring them together and focus them on a thing they’re passionate about, neat things are going to come.”

Ahlwardt said the members look forward to getting started.

“If there’s one thing I would say about all of us is, nobody is reluctant about rolling up their sleeves and saying, ‘What have we got here? What are we going to do with this?’” Ahlwardt said. “All of us are leaning forward. Everybody who accepted the invitation to the commission has a desire to further the goals of this community and both design it and fly it at the same time.” Soon, members plan to speak with area military recruiters to inform them about the commission.

“It creates a potential where young adults, children or parents who live here can see military service as something honorable or appropriate for their young son or daughter,” Ahlwardt said. “It’s an investment in our country.”

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Armed Forces Commission members 


Vince Semona


Javyer Burtner


Mathew Rapp


Tiffanie Ditlevson


Eddie Rivers


George Stavropoulos


Nicole McNab


El Ahlwardt


Elliott Hultgren


Leah McGrath


Jim White