The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 28, 2012

Family of service honored at Memorial Day ceremony

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Lt. Col. Robert Brock returned to his hometown Monday and told an audience of about 500 residents and veterans gathered at the Pittsburg State University Veterans Memorial that Memorial Day is a celebration of family — America’s family of service.

“It is a celebration of what makes us unique as Americans, and as a family of individuals who have served as one force against enemies who would viciously attack our shores and our freedom,” said the 1985 graduate of Pittsburg High School.

“This close-knit family of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines understands loneliness, fear of death, fear of losing a loved one, and leaving loved ones behind. Regardless of age, this young family knows the meaning of sacrifice, and they have an understanding of what it takes to keep this country safe from those evil powers who routinely attempt to threaten our front door.”

Brock said that in his career in the Air Force, he has traveled to more than 30 countries. He was deployed to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks and led formations of special operations helicopters for some of the first attacks on terrorist compounds in Afghanistan. During his fourth tour in the region, Brock led rescue and recovery missions for special operations, and earned the Bronze Star for directing 140 rescue missions with no MIAs.

The ceremony also marked the induction of 2nd Lt. Rachel Patrick into the Army Nurse Corps. Patrick took the oath of service from her husband, 1st Lt. Tyson Patrick. Though the couple at first will be stationed apart, Rachel Patrick said she hopes they soon will be reunited. She said taking the oath before so many veterans was a humbling experience.

“It’s a huge honor and humbling to be around so many people who have served for so many years and been through so much,” she said.

The day also marked the end of retired Brig. Gen. Jim AuBuchon’s tenure of organizing Pittsburg’s annual Memorial Day celebration. After leading the event since the PSU Veterans Memorial was opened in 2004, AuBuchon said the time has come to pass the reins to the Frontenac American Legion. AuBuchon said his immediate feeling was one of relief.

“It kind of feels good at this point,” he said after Monday’s ceremony. “Next year at this time I might have different thoughts, but I doubt it. I’ve reached a point where I’ve learned that there is a time for all things to wind down.”

AuBuchon said he remembers his days as an ROTC cadet at Pittsburg State.

“I’m a graduate of this ROTC program also, and just like (Rachel Patrick), I went through a similar ceremony in 1963,” he said. “This is my alma mater. This is my ROTC program, and it’s just great to see the university still embrace the ROTC and soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”

Vietnam veteran Ed Babcock, of Arma, said events like the Memorial Day ceremony have helped to heal some of the bitterness felt by veterans of his era. He said the PSU Veterans Memorial, which includes a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a quiet place for veterans and their families to reflect on the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.

“It’s just amazing what this place does and what it means to veterans and their families,” he said. “If you’re by yourself late in the evening, you can go by the reflecting pool and experience the peace of God and everything that goes with it.”

PSU President Steve Scott said comments like Babcock’s are why the project was so important to campus and community leaders who conceived of constructing the memorial nearly a decade ago.

“We are very pleased that this facility has become so important to veterans and veterans’ families, and really the community at large,” he said. “There are some people here today, Ken Brock and Jim AuBuchon to name a couple, who really envisioned this many years ago.”

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