A day of honor for those most deserving
Photos from the Veterans Day ceremony at Janesville's Traxler Park on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010.
JANESVILLE Fran Rivera still attends Military Moms support group gatherings even though her son no longer serves in the military.
"I feel connected to all those women," the Janesville woman said. "We have a bond even though most of our kids don't know each other."
Rivera joined Military Moms when her 29-year-old son, Mike Rivera of Edgerton, joined the Army four years ago. After being stationed in Fairbanks, Ala., he was deployed to Iraq. It was there he suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he now experiences post traumatic stress disorder.
While Mike was serving abroad, Fran found comfort with Military Moms.
"I knew I had somebody I could call anytime if anything happened," she said.
She also found it calming for other members to share their stories, because to have a loved one serving abroad is scary.
"You pray a lot and know what every mother is going through," she said. "It's heartbreaking."
Fortunately for military mothers of today, modern technology has made a big difference.
"I don't know how moms did it in other wars, not knowing anything," Fran said, noting she connected with her son by cell phone and online via Skype.
"My dad was in World War II, and my ex-husband in Vietnam. They couldn't call Mom."
Thursday, an estimated crowd of 400 gathered for the annual Veterans Day program at Veterans Plaza in Traxler Park. The event, organized by members of the Janesville Patriotic Society, celebrates contributions made by people like Mike Rivera and other past and present members of the military.
Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden served as keynote speaker for the event, saying he was honored to pay tribute to the country's brave men and women.
"Today we remember and give thanks to all those who have given so much and have asked nothing in return," he said.
This included Spoden's late father-in-law, George Kowal, a 1942 Janesville High School graduate who served in the Navy aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Hudson and fought in major battles throughout the Pacific Ocean during World War II.
"His name is listed with other heroes at the (veterans) walkway here," Spoden said.
Spoden also spoke of his father, who volunteered to serve in Vietnam.
"I clearly remember the pride and uncertainty we felt as we said goodbye to him. My father came home in 1967, but so many of our young men and women did not," he said.
Spoden reminded the crowd to not forget those who have served several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Men and women and their families have sacrificed so that we can not only enjoy our freedoms, but also live in safety," he said.
From the earliest days of our nation and our fight for independence, through a Civil War, two world wars and conflicts in Asia and the Middle East, the soldier, sailor and airman always have been there, Spoden said.
"We are a great nation because of you, and those who served before you," he said.