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WTIP reporter shares a Veterans Day message at Grand Portage event

When Grand Portage American Legion Post 2009 and the Grand Portage Veterans Memorial Committee hosted its 2019 Veterans Day commemoration, the event had many of the traditional elements—there was drum song and a moment of silence; a wonderful luncheon and cake and a gathering of friends.

However, the cold weather meant no flag-raising ceremony. The flags were raised in advance and waved in the winter wind as the U.S. and Canadian National Anthem were played inside the Post 2009 building.

Something else was different this year -- the guest speaker was not a veteran. In fact, Grand Portage American Legion Post 2009 invited this reporter to share some thoughts on Veterans Day.

It was an unusual request. As a journalist, I’m normally covering events, not becoming part of them.

But I realized, it is a great honor to be asked to be part of this ceremony. So, I agreed to give the speech, honored to share the day with the Stonebridge Singers and community veterans.

My life has been touched by many veterans in my family circle—my brothers – Randy Bockovich in the US Air Force; Ryan Bockovich in submarine service in the Navy; my sister, Rhodelle, a Navy Seabee; my uncles, Hallie, Gillie, Bob and Bruce Bockovich; and my dad, Richard Bockovich—who was serving his stint in the Army when I was born at Ft. Carson, Colorado. And of course, my soldier husband, Chuck, who served in the Army for 22 years.

Because I was with Chuck for most of those 22 years, traveling to Washington State, Germany, Colorado, California, Germany again, and Virginia, I sometimes joke that I’m not a veteran, I’m a “camp follower.”

So, as a camp follower, a military spouse, I thought maybe I do have something worth sharing this Veterans Day…So…
To Grand Portage Veterans Services Officer Clarence “Clinker” Everson; to American Legion Post 2009 Commander Orlando Swader; and the other organizers, thank you  --miigwetch -- for this opportunity.

Giving this speech gives me the chance to talk about one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received, the gift of a brick in the walkway at the Grand Portage Veterans Memorial.

Receiving a memorial brick was such a wonderful surprise. I was told the brick was given in appreciation of the work I’ve done telling veteran stories. As I was preparing for this speech, I thought of all the veterans I’ve talked to—too many to mention in this radio report.  And sadly, too many have passed on, making those stories all the more precious.

I was also told that my brick in the memorial walkway was in recognition of my reporting on the work of Grand Portage veterans and community members, during the fundraising, the development and the construction of the Grand Portage Veterans Memorial next to the old school.

I can tell you there were tears when I visited the beautiful memorial site where a golden eagle stands guard and saw a brick declaring: “Rhonda Silence - a friend of veterans.”

Such an honor. An honor that I don’t really feel I deserve because …I was just doing my job.

I was just doing my job. Sound familiar?

Time and again, as I listened to veterans and recorded their stories, I heard that. From brave men and women who faced unimaginable horrors. From veterans who were ready at any time to face hardship, loneliness and even death. “I was just doing my job.”

That job—defending the freedom of our country, protecting our citizens and those in foreign lands from danger, doing the work that others don’t want to do—that job is one that must be honored and respected.

It seems like a fitting time to share a poignant quote, attributed to Rudyard Kipling:

"In times of war and not before,
God and the soldier we adore.
But in times of peace and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted."

That is why ceremonies like this one are so very important. It is important to pause on this 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the anniversary of the armistice, which was the end of the “war to end all wars” -- to remember the sacrifices of our heroes. It is important to say THANK YOU.

Thank you, veterans, “for just doing your job.”