About two years after U.S. Army Sergeant Joshua Rodgers was killed in action, the Normal Post Office was renamed in his honor on Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) was among dignitaries and family at the event Thursday morning to unveil the newly-renamed post office after the 22-year-old Rodgers was killed fighting in Afghanistan two years ago.
LaHood introduced legislation on Dec. 21, 2018, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump to officially name the Bloomington-Normal Post Office as the Sgt. Josh Rodgers Post Office.
The event was open to the public and began at 10 a.m. with American flags lining the streets as the community, friends and family honored Rodgers.
Sgt. Rodgers’ father, Kevin Rodgers gave a heartfelt, emotional speech in honor of his late son.
“He was a team player and never wanted to be singled out, which I think John would have preferred. I would like to thank his fellow rangers a few who are with us today and went into battle with him that night and some who you will hear from tonight,” he said.
“There’s a ranger creed that has been abided by, one of the lines states ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.’”
“On the night Josh perished, his brothers put themselves in great harm to bring Josh home, knowing full well he had already perished. They kept that promise and are proud to think that Josh would’ve done the same.”
“There’s another line that I think Josh would’ve thought was even more important, ‘Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.’”
“These men along with several other rangers fought for nearly three hours against a vastly superior force and superior only in number that is, and only till they completed their mission. That was the best way you could’ve honored Josh.”
After the father’s speech, Rodger’s high school best friend, Nick Rohde spoke about his time in high school with Josh.
“First, like I said, a special shout out to the entire Rogers family and the rest of you down in the stands. Most of you have the narrative that things are the way they are because that’s how they’ve always been and always will be, but those that dare to push the limits of existence are the ones that have really lived,” Rohde said.
“Accomplishments are great such as sportsmanship or team participation, the day you display those qualities is great but those that dare to go above beyond are the ones who go on to become heroes and mentors in our community,” he said.
“The older I get the more I realize that life isn’t about the duration of how long you live. You’d be a fool to think that a mere 20 or 30 years is any less than 100 in the life of eternity. Simply put, life isn’t about the duration you live but rather the impact that you leave.” He added. “When I think of an impact left, Josh is the first person that comes to mind. We played football together, he was quiet yet a surprisingly swift athlete. He was always soft spoken, humble and one of the fastest people I knew.”
“Josh was always the underdog, the one who surprised all and shoed up when it counted,” Rohde said.
Rodgers was a 2013 graduate of Normal Community High School and a Ranger team leader at the time of the raid. It was his third deployment to Afghanistan.
Casey Van Pelt, a fellow ranger who was present when Rodgers was killed in action, explained the valor Josh showed against the enemy.
“Sgt. Rodgers was never one for words so I will try and share a bit about him while keeping it brief and to the point, the way I think he’d like it,” Van Pelt said.
“After graduating from airborne school, he was assigned to the Ranger Selection and Assessment Program and was assigned to Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th regiment in May 2014,” he said.
“The 7th regiment was part of the U.S. Special Forces Operation Command with its primary mission to conduct primary targeted raids in hostile or sensitive environments worldwide in order to kill or capture high valued targets.”
“Josh served there as a machine-gunner, rifleman, gun team leader and finally as a Ranger team leader. As stated earlier, Josh never wasted his words, if you ask anyone who know him, they’d agree. He said what he meant and meant what he said, leaving no doubt or room for interpretation.”
“Josh was different from everyone else and I can honestly say he was the only person I was scared to death of after attracting some negative attention to myself,” Van Pelt said.
“Most men in the special forces have big egos or seem to want to prove something, either to themselves or others. He wasn’t like that. He was confident in who he was and where he stood. He did not complain.”
“For these reasons and many more, Josh was and is the epitome of what an excellent leader and ranger should be,” he said.
Van Pelt then proceeded to give an account of the night Rodger’s was killed while fighting the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
“As we inserted into a known ISIS stronghold, the enemy began to maneuver and mass their fire towards us, under heavily concentrated fire. Josh continued to towards the target compound knowing that as a leader he was expected to get his men to the safest position, simultaneously placing himself where he could directly affect the enemy.”
“Josh had a decision to make and it was executed without hesitation. Before he was fatally wounded, he was shot through the leg. In his calmest demeanor he looked to his teammate and told him to hold his ladder while he applied his own tourniquet. He then secured his ladder and began moving towards the compound once again.”
“He knew that he was the man that was going to keep his men safe and that others were counting on him to make it to the target. He was not going to let them down and he did not,” Van Pelt said.
“The story is to solidify my earlier words, these are not empty or flattering comments and statements, this is how Josh lived every single day of his life.”
Rodgers was a decorated hero receiving numerous awards and medals including the Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Army Service Ribbon and the NATO Medal.
He was posthumously honored with the Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart.