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. […]
Honor Guard to carry flag made by Rockford woman by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL An annual harbinger of spring returns to DeVos Place this Thursday through Sunday, March 17-20. The Showspan-produced Ultimate Sport Show is eagerly awaited every year at this time by winter weary West Michiganders. Michigan sportsmen never miss this show and readers may recall how, last year, we hooked up with “Walleye Wayne” Stevenson for a guided walleye fishing charter out of Monroe, Michigan on Lake Erie. Reporter Nancy became a bona fide walleye “aFISHionado” on the morning of the early June outing as we quickly limited out with keepers all exceeding 18 inches. At this year’s Ultimate Sport Show, we are looking forward to a special ceremony, scheduled for 6 p.m. during opening night on Thursday, March 17, honoring a group of war veterans, all of whom have been awarded the Purple Heart for combat wounds. An Honor Guard representing U.S. military branches will officially thank the veterans for their sacrifices. A 3×5-foot American flag containing 1, 021 thumbprints taken primarily from veterans in West Michigan will be presented as part of this very special ceremony. Rockford resident Sherrie Coke collected the thumbprints and designed the flag entitled “Freedom” using as a model antique 48-star flag predating 1958. “Freedom” was entered in last summer’s Grand Rapids ArtPrize competition. “There’s a story behind each and every one of those thumbprints,” Coke said. “They belong to servicemen and women whose rank runs from Private through Colonel.” Coke’s father and brother are both veterans and were a motivating force in the creation of the flag. Additionally, Coke taught art classes in oil painting at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans during 2005-2006. We were fortunate enough to see “Freedom” proudly displayed in the Waters Building during ArtPrize 2010. Ironically, it was housed in the same venue as “Pandora,” the stained glass lamp creation of Rockford’s Eric Brown. “Freedom” was a heartfelt creation celebrating the bravery and sacrifice of American heroes in recognition of those who have given of themselves to protect our freedom. “Lest we not forget.” Every red stripe in the flag was composed of hundreds of veterans’ thumbprints along with blue thumbprints creating the field around the stars. It was beautiful and […]
Coke was driving in town last Saturday morning when she spotted signs promoting the REF’s “TipToe through the Ted” sod sale. She hurried on over to the high school and purchased six rolls of sod and returned home to place them in her yard. The football turf looked so great she quickly returned to the high school and purchased eight more rolls. Ram football players provided assistance through-out the day by loading sod in purchasers vehicles. About to load sod in the rear of Coke’s vehicle are Rockford varsity football players Joe Stefanski (middle) and Jon Newsome (r). The days activities were sponsored by the Rockford Education Foundation (REF), Rockford Football and Band Boosters. REF administrator Sue Arend tells the Squire that the promotion was a “win-win for everyone involved”. As of Monday morning, May 4, some 500 yards of sod had been sold and she was still busy fielding calls from new first time purchasers as well as those seeking to add to a previous purchase or donation.