Remembering military families
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.