Hundreds show up to honor veterans with Farm Bureau
POCATELLO – About 500 people packed the Idaho Farm Bureau headquarters building in Pocatello Nov. 9 for the group’s 8th Annual Salute to Idaho Veterans.
Veterans of every military branch were among those who attended the 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 and look 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 of Congress, but I have a higher respect for you,” he said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your courage and commitment and dedication so I, my family and others in this great country can enjoy the great freedoms we have.”
Many of the roughly 180 veterans attending the event said they were moved at the reception they received and some contrasted it to the hostile reception they received after returning from serving in the Vietnam War.
“I’m grateful to be in this state because California does not do this for the veterans,” said Robert Williamson, a retired member of the Navy who served during the Vietnam War. I think it’s really great for Farm Bureau to be doing this. It really means a lot 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, but Idaho and Farm Bureau have really stepped up to the plate in honoring the veterans and we’re grateful for that,” he said. “It’s amazing to see this respect for the people that have made this 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 eight years 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 that someone really understood some of the things that combat veterans have gone through.”
Paul Roberts, CEO of Farm Burau 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 your country.”
The event included a traditional flag ceremony, free photo portraits for veterans and current military members, and a complimentary commemorative coin of the event.