Arthur Moeller Legion Auxiliary President Lorna Bryan places a remembrance wreath Monday morning at the American Legion Memorial Day program in Hardwick.Russell Wenzel salutes the two American flags placed in remembrance of two former Hardwick Legion members, Marlow Roskamp and Elmer Moeller, two Hardwick veterans who died since last Memorial Day. Betty Lorenzen was remembered as a member of the Auxiliary.Inside the jeep is a picture of Bob Reker, who was killed in action on June 13, 1969. Don Reker of rural Jasper speaks about losing his brother, Bob, during the Vietnam War at the Memorial Day program in Hardwick. Parked near the event was an A1-A2 Army jeep owned by Reker’s cousin Gary Reker of Adrian.

Remembering military families

Memorial Day speaker Don Reker shares experience of losing brother to war in Vietnam

Don Reker’s speech Monday morning in Hardwick wasn’t from the perspective of a soldier. Instead, the rural Jasper farmer spoke from the point of view of a family member who lost a loved one during the Vietnam War.

“I have no message of patriotism on this Memorial Day except I know Bob was willing to serve his country and give his life so others didn’t have to,” Reker said.

As the sole surviving son, Reker wasn’t called to active duty. Instead, he said, he was able to have a family, have grandchildren to enjoy and make a living at farming.

“These are the things that Bob knew he might be giving up when he enlisted in 1968,” Reker said.

Robert “Bob” Reker graduated from Jasper High School in 1966 and attended one year of college at St. John’s University. Don Reker said his brother decided college wasn’t for him and enlisted in the Marine Corps.

After basic training and 12 weeks of Vietnamese language school, Bob Reker was assigned to the First Marine Division in Vietnam.

Each week the Reker family received a letter from Bob as he served overseas. When a letter didn’t arrived as scheduled, Reker said his family knew something was wrong.

Within days a Marine Corps vehicle came up to the family farm. “I knew this was going to change our lives forever,” Reker said.

Bob Reker became the first Rock County resident to be killed in action during the Vietnam War.

“Bob was killed as a reminder that all service men’s and women’s families need to be remembered today,” he said.

Reker said he was an unwilling speaker for the Hardwick legion event but it was his late brother who changed his mind.

“If Bob was willing to enlist in the Marines at the height of the Vietnam War,” he said,  “I could speak to the Hardwick community and tell his story.”

Reker concluded by encouraging everyone to visit the Herreid Military Museum in Luverne. At the museum is a display about his brother.

“All of the people involved in making that happen should be proud of a job well done,” he said.

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