May 29, 2012 12:00AM
If there was a theme to the 2012 Memorial Day observance at Pittsburg State University’s Veterans Memorial, it was family.
Lt. Col. Robert Brock, the keynote speaker for the event, talked about the extended family of those in military service.
“This close-knit family of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines understands loneliness, fear of death, fear of losing a loved one, and leaving loved ones behind,” Brock said. “This family knows the meaning of sacrifice, and they have an understanding of what it takes to keep this country safe from those evil powers who routinely attempt to threaten our front door.”
As he spoke, Brock’s own family surrounded him. His parents, Ken and Debbie Brock, placed the memorial wreath beside the reflecting pool. His wife, Lori, and children, Lucas and Caroline, and his brother, Ron, all sat in the audience.
Brock’s former high school English teacher, Cathy AuBuchon, introduced him, remembering him as the youngster who “had a twinkle in his eye, as if he knew something you didn’t know.”
After graduating from Pittsburg High School in 1985, Brock went on to earn his commission through Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Texas Christian University.
Brock served his first three years in the Air Force as an aircraft maintenance officer at Charleston AFB, S.C. Following a deployment to Somalia for Operation RESTORE HOPE, he was selected for Air Force Pilot Training in Enid, Okla. Graduating at the top of his class, he was one of the first two Air Force pilots to transition to special operations helicopters directly from flight school.
As an MH-53J Pave Low aircraft commander, Brock deployed more than 430 days to conduct combat missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania. After his upgrade to instructor pilot, he was promoted to flight commander and led formations of special operations helicopters for the first attacks on terrorist compounds in Afghanistan.
During his fourth extended tour to the Middle East, Brock served as the senior leader in charge of rescue/recovery of U.S. Special Operations Forces where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for directing 140 rescues with no MIAs.
Following four years with national intelligence agencies, Brock was selected to command the first drone squadron for special operations. The 3rd Special Operations Squadron was recognized as “The model UAV organization in DoD” by the secretary of defense.
Brock has received numerous awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters.
The theme of family was on display later in Monday’s observance when 1st Lt. Tyson Patrick administered the oath of service to his wife, 2nd Lt. Rachel Patrick, a new PSU graduate who is entering the Army Nurse Corps.
Jim AuBuchon, the master of ceremonies, said he was also a part of the extended family comprised of veterans, the community and the university.
“I am proud to be a product of the PSU ROTC program,” AuBuchon said. He added that it was gratifying to see the university and the community embrace ROTC and military veterans from all branches of the service.
“It says a lot about Pittsburg State University,” AuBuchon said. “I think it is so important for an institution of higher education, where students learn how to promote the democracy we live in, to have a place where they also learn that we enjoy our democracy because of the sacrifices of others. The Veterans Memorial does just that.”
PSU President Steve Scott assured the veterans and their families that Pittsburg State would always support them.
“This beautiful facility is a constant reminder not only of those who have served their country, but it is a testament to the relationship that Pittsburg State has maintained over time with this country, our military and most importantly with the soldiers who have served so valiantly and selflessly,” Scott said.
“This support has not faded over time; it is rooted in the values we hold dear and it remains an integral part of our character, and I will work to ensure that support continues...Our service men and women will always have a friend in Pittsburg State University.”