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  • Fairbury News staff

Rodgers shares powerful message

Vonda Rodgers, mother of the late Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, speaks at PCHS Tuesday.

The mother of an Army Ranger killed in action brought a message of hope and unity to Prairie Central High School in Fairbury Tuesday afternoon.

Vonda Rodgers was the speaker during the school’s annual Veteran’s Day ceremony which was pushed back a day due to inclement weather. Army Ranger Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers of Bloomington died in April 2017 in Nangarhar Province during a joint operation with Afghan forces.

“Daily life is hard for the men and women in our military,” Vonda acknowledged. “It’s not about anger – it’s about love.”

Vonda recalled that day just over two years ago when her son’s squad was sent on a military mission to the site of what was known as the “mother of all bombs” which was intended to destroy tunnels members of ISIS used to travel.

“They were under fire from all sides,” she noted.

Joshua was hit in the leg after he hit the ground. This could be where the story ended but it wasn’t. Joshua tied a tourniquet on his leg and advanced his team toward a compound. Just after midnight, he and others were shot by friendly fire, caught in the middle of the “good guys and bad guys” in Vonda’s words. Joshua died instantly.

“Brave is dealing with that loss in a productive manner,” Vonda told the audience. “My son is one of the soldiers these brave men and women are.”

Vonda encouraged everyone to share that story with family and friends next Memorial Day. Veteran’s Day is a time to honor the bravery of the men and women who keep going – those who have served and those who will serve.

“This is not a day belonging to the military. It is a day set aside for us to honor them.”

Listening is just as important as or more important than talking, in Vonda’s opinion. She feels leading means knowing what all concerns are and taking them seriously. Those in attendance were left with a challenge to go beyond thanking those who served by talking with them about their service and asking questions.

“My son died for your freedom.”

Joshua was assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Normal Community High School graduate was on his third deployment to Afghanistan. Vonda and her husband, Kevin, established the Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers Memorial Fund to provide financial assistance for veteran scholarships and local youth sports.

PCHS Principal Brad Allen reminded students that Veteran’s Day means freedom, sacrifice and honor which are things we cannot take for granted.

“No group has shaped the history of the United States more than these men and women,” Allen explained.

Emcee Paul Augsburger of VFW Post 9789 thanked the Prairie Central administrators, board and students for being at the ceremony. He also recognized those students participating in the Voice of Democracy contest.

“It is a worthwhile program not only for the VFW but the students as well,” Augsburger said.

The PCHS combined bands and choir honored the veterans in attendance with music while servicemen and women stood to be acknowledged. Audience members applauded several times and even gave a standing ovation.

“If you ever have the privilege, take the time to visit with a veteran,” Allen concluded.

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