People’s Reflection: Keweenaw veterans act honorably in war: general

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan National Guard Brig. Gen. Paul Rogers speaks at American Legion Post 61 Veterans Day dinner at the Michigan National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet Saturday.

CALUMET — Amid a highly polarized and fragmented country, the armed forces could be a model for how to find common ground, Paul Rogers said.

Rogers, a Michigan National Guard general and a Calumet native, spoke at the American Legion Post 61 Veterans Day dinner at the Michigan National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet.

He started his speech by asking all members of the five branches of the armed forces — Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard — to stand.

“I don’t know if there’s been a conflict where there hasn’t been a big bar brawl between those five … They always fight amongst themselves,” he said. “But when they face a common foe, they rally together.”

People from the Keweenaw have been serving in this nation’s wars since the Civil War, he said.

While commanding the National Guard 507th Battalion from downstate in Iraq, he had the chance to oversee a utility detachment from Calumet’s 107th. While there, they supported the units in Abu Ghraib by doing construction and supporting security units after a suicide bomber attack.

He also remembered the Keweenaw soldiers’ generosity towards the third-country nationals who did service jobs on operating bases such as cleaning bathrooms.

The workers lived in a large tent in the middle of a ring of trailers. The plumbing had failed in the trailers, sending wastewater to pool in the middle. The Guardsmen took it upon themselves to fix it.

“The humanity of the people from this community is something to be very proud of,” Rogers said. “I don’t know how many thousands of soldiers passed those same people and ignored them. That is a reflection on all of you.”

When the 107th deployed to Afghanistan, it was tasked with road clearance — “the most dangerous mission” any troops had in Iraq or Afghanistan, Rogers said. Members earned nearly 50 Purple Hearts in carrying out the mission.

“They served that area, that road network day in and day out, night in and night out, to make it safe for fellow soldiers to pass,” he said. “…Their heroism, their bravery and their courage is a reflection on this community.”

Veterans Day is a recognition of those who choose to serve their country in the military, he said, but it’s also a celebration of the family members who stand behind them.

“Their conduct and their achievement is not only a reflection on them and their unit, but is a reflection of the community they represent,” he said.