News - Sauk Valley

Veterans Day in the Sauk Valley: Dignity and resolve revealed through military service

American Legion posts conduct ceremonies in Rock Falls and Sterling

Theresa Heffelfinger sings the national anthem during a Veterans Day observance Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, at Veterans Memorial Park in Rock Falls.

ROCK FALLS — They were few in number, but hearty souls nevertheless.

About two dozen people attended a Veterans Day ceremony Friday morning at Veterans Memorial Park.

With a breeze and temps in the 40s, they came in hooded winter coats and settled in on wood benches and watched the ceremony at the Maurice L. Russell Memorial Band Shell.

Elsewhere in the Sauk Valley, there were other observances, including at Sterling High School, Reagan Park in Tampico and an elementary school in Polo. Dixon American Legion Post 12 held its traditional open house. Meanwhile, the Freedom 5K Run-Walk will be Saturday at Sauk Valley Community College.

An honor guard from Rock Falls American Legion Post 902 fires a rifle salute during Veterans Day observances Friday, Nov. 11, 2022 at Veterans Memorial Park in Rock Falls.

Rock Falls Mayor Rodney Klecke was the featured speaker — and he shared the news that the Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall would be on display next year at RB&W Riverfront Park.

For the occasion, Klecke said the example of uniformed service should be emulated by all Americans, civilians included, by volunteering in our communities.

“Each of us shares a duty and responsibility,” he said.

“If we want to preserve our freedoms, we must put them into action. For example, by voting in elections, speaking out against injustice,” he added.

The ceremony, organized by Rock Falls American Legion Post 902, included a rendition of the national anthem by Theresa Heffelfinger. The post’s honor guard provided a rifle salute while a horn player sounded the taps bugle call.

Capt. Taylor J-Beebe Cox bows her head after accepting applause for her Veterans Day address on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022 at Sterling High School Centennial Auditorium. This is the second year Cox, a logistics officer at Rock Island Arsenal, has provided the address.

In Sterling, U.S. Army Capt. Taylor J-Beebe Cox was asked by American Legion Post 296 to return as speaker after her strong address last year. More than 60 attended an observance at Sterling High School’s Centennial Auditorium.

“I wish I’d saved that speech,” said Cox, a logistics officer assigned to the Rock Island Arsenal. “This last year has been one of severely trying times.”

Cox listed the universal challenges of inflation, rising interest rates, health care and other “tension points.” She said the U.S. military is facing one of the worst periods of retention in its history, with recruiting prospects looking bleak: Of those ages 18 to 24, fewer than 30% are eligible for service.

But there is reason for optimism, she said, which she learned while on assignment in Europe.

While Cox didn’t disclose what those duties involved or where — such as whether it included support to Ukraine — the mission left a lasting impact.

“As I reflected on that I began to think about our Army and what the United States military is,” she said. “What is our purpose? Why am I fighting? Who do I put this uniform on every day and go to work?”

Cox gave a brief recap of military action in the country’s history, from the birth of the nation to its global mission today.

To Cox, America leads the charge, then and now. And the U.S. flag represents a universal symbol of hope.

“I think that is why we do it: Not because it is easy, but because it is the right thing to do,” she said.

“Our place on the world stage did not come cheaply,” she said. “You need go no further than the rows of markers on your left as you pass through the gates of the Rock Island Arsenal. Those heroes bore that cost. They are mothers, fathers, wives and husbands that lay their most precious sacrifice on the altar of freedom, so that America remains and always will remain the land where you are truly free.”

Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.