By: Sean Ellis Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO — About 500 people packed the Idaho Farm Bureau headquarters building in Pocatello on Friday for the group’s eighth annual Salute to Idaho Veterans.
Veterans of every military branch were among those who attendedthe three-hour event, which is held to show veterans as well as current active duty military members that the community deeply appreciates the sacrifices they make to protect our nation’s liberties, said Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Bryan Searle.
He fought back tears as he thanked the veterans in attendance.
“What an overwhelming privilege to be able to stand here andlook in your eyes,” said Searle, a farmer from Shelley. “I want to express my appreciation for your service. America is great because of you.”
Searle said he has met with the governor and members of Congress on numerous occasions, but those moments don’t compare to meeting with the people who have helped protect the country.
“I have the highest respect for the governor and members ofCongress, but I have a higher respect for you,” he said. “Thankyou from the bottom of my heart for your courage and commitmentand dedication so I, my family and others in this great country can enjoy the great freedoms we have.”
Many of the approximately 180 veterans attending the event said they were moved at the reception they received and some contrasted it to the hostile reception they received afterreturning from serving in the Vietnam War.
“I’m grateful to be in this state because California does not dothis for the veterans,” said Robert Williamson, a retired memberof the Navy who served during the Vietnam War. “I think it’s really great for Farm Bureau to be doing this. It really means alot to me. It made my eyes leak a little bit.”
Tom Crowell, a Navy veteran, remembers getting spit at walking down the streets of San Francisco following the Vietnam War.
“I don’t think you’d see this in a lot of other states, butIdaho and Farm Bureau have really stepped up to the plate inhonoring the veterans and we’re grateful for that,” he said.“It’s amazing tosee this respect for the people that have madethis country free.”
Hundreds of people packed the Farm Bureau atrium during the ceremony and scores more watched from the upper levels of the building.
“I was very humbled by the number of people that showed up and participated,” said Army Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Leslie A. Chapman, the event’s guest speaker.
Army and Vietnam veteran Richard Hollingsworth said that when he attended the first Farm Bureau Salute to Idaho Veterans eightyears ago,
“it was my first welcome home; it let me come out of my closet. It let me stand proud for what I had done. It showed me thatsomeone really understood some of the things that combat veterans have gone through.”
Paul Roberts, CEO of Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Idaho,said Farm Bureau recognizes how important it is to recognize all military members, retired and current active duty personnel, for their service.
“Their service is the reason we have those freedoms we have today,” he said. “We honor every man and woman who has worn the uniform of the armed forces that have watched over America.”
Roberts said that while he has never experienced what it feels like to wear the uniform or go through what military members do,
“I do know gratitude. I’m honored to be in your presence today.Thank you for your service and all the sacrifices for yourcountry.”
The event included a traditional flag ceremony, free photoportraits for veterans and current military members, and a complimentary commemorative coin of the event.
Commander of the Pocatello Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 829, and other members of the combined Pocatello American Legion / Military Order of the Purple Heart Honor Guard during the
Salute to Idaho Veterans Flag Ceremony.
Marine veteran Ron Tapia (at left)
A member of the Salute planning committee, with Army veteran Byron Hewett.
Paul Roberts, Executive Vice President and CEO Of Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company
Presents a $250 check to third grader Kylie Kyle, the winner of the first through sixth grade division of the annualFarm Bureau Insurance Veterans Day Essay Contest.
Guest speaker U.S. Army Sergeant Major (Ret.) Leslie A Chapman speaks to the approximately 500 Salute attendees.
Chapman explaining how his group of 12 men defended themselves against a non-stop attacking force of 900 North
Vietnamese Army soldiers.
George “Woody” Woodman of the Pocatello American Legion Post 4 (standing at left)
prepares to cut a piece of the Salute ceremonial cake for Boyd Henderson, a 100 year-old Word War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient (seated). Behind Boyd, left to right are: Mark Trupp, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Board Member, PaulRoberts, Executive Vice President and CEO of Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho, Bryan Searle, President, Idaho Farm Bureau, and Wade Pierce, Sr. Vice Commander of the Pocatello Military Order of the Purple Heart.