by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Last Thursday evening was Veterans Night at the opening of this year’s Ultimate Sport Show at DeVos Place. The Rockford Squire was there to specifically cover a very special ceremony honoring surviving veterans who had served their country in times of war and peace since WWII.
We were especially pleased to find U.S. Marine Corporal Josh Hoffman (with ties to Rockford) present that evening in order to receive special honors for what he had given up in the protection of our freedoms.
You may recall that Josh had been felled by a sniper’s shot through the neck while on patrol in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2007. The bullet left him paralyzed from the chest down. After more than a year of medical treatment and therapy, Josh was released to return home to Michigan, where he continued rehab along with 24/7 care that will continue for the rest of his life.
In 2009 Josh moved into a house in Middleville that had been especially constructed to meet his needs going forward. He resides there to this day with the full-time assistance of a caregiver.
At the opening of the ceremony, patriotism flowed through DeVos Place as a military color guard of veterans, followed by color guards representing each and every branch of the Armed Services, marched the entire length of the entrance concourse of DeVos Place to the ceremonial stage.
Hundreds of onlookers, with hands on their hearts, witnessed the procession as it passed, followed by a flag created by Rockford’s Sherrie Coke. Titled “Freedom,” the flag, composed of over 1,000 American veterans’ thumbprints, was carried fittingly by two Marines. The flag had been Coke’s entrant in the 2010 Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition.
During the ceremony, surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers—friends, family and veterans alike—Cpl. Hoffman was honored and presented with a beautifully framed shadowbox containing all of his medals and ribbons, not the least of which was the Purple Heart. Proudly displayed on stage in the background was “Freedom,” Coke’s U.S. flag.
The veterans in our midst that evening and countless others, some of whom have lain down their lives, reinforce what it truly means to be a proud American.