News Release

American Volunteer Couple Observe Powerful Ceremony on Remote Pacific Island 

Earlier this year, Jeff and Judy Brock bid farewell to their home in the United States, their children, and grandchildren for 18 months to serve the people of Kiribati as humanitarian missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Elder and Sister Brock (as they are known as missionaries) became quickly immersed in the work in Kiribati and developed a profound love for the people there. “Sister Brock and I have been in Kiribati for just under three months and could not feel more welcomed and loved," Elder Brock notes. "There is a genuineness in their smiles that has transcended our lack of language skills. These wonderful people have allowed our mission experience to exceed all our expectations.”

They have worked with other non-profits, government organizations, island councils and other groups to help with clean water and sanitation needs. They have also helped to arrange for new furniture for schools and to provide for medical supplies. Another project involves improving healthy living by helping with home gardening and various diabetes prevention initiatives.

Although the Brocks were loving their time in Kiribati and were very involved in their service, being away from the United States on Independence Day was going to be difficult. That was until they met a group of fellow Americans who were on the archaeological staff for a Florida based non-profit organization known as History Flight. This group labors tirelessly to arrange for the return of the remains of WWII US soldiers who paid the ultimate price and had been left behind. Their work is long and arduous – identifying potential burial sites, fighting ground water and unearthing the remains in a manner that is as dignified as possible.

According to a local leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Iotua Tune, "For the past several years a group of American archaeologists have been doing excavation on the island of Betio for the remains of their fellow Americans who died during the Battle of Tarawa in WWII."

He continues, "From WWII until today we consider Americans our friends...because of the sacrifice they made to liberate our islands from a foreign power...the 1,100 Americans who died on our shores did not perish in vain. Our country would be different today without the sacrifice of those brave American soldiers whom we continue to honour today."

Elder Brock relates, “They became the one place on an island in the middle of the Pacific, where we felt at home on July 4th [America’s Independence Day]. We made about a hundred paper flags and placed them around the sites and then sang the Star Spangled Banner. [US National Anthem] They turned off their pumps and stopped the work, so that we could all feel of the reverence of that moment. We were all humbled by the price that had been paid and continues to be paid for our freedoms.” Elder and Sister Brock were invited to a special sending off ceremony held on July 18 at which a US Air Force C-17 was loaded with the remains of the soldiers at a sunrise ceremony at the Tarawa airport.

“I don’t believe any of us could have imagined the power of the moments to come, nor the immensity of the debt of gratitude that was felt," said Elder Brock. "It is difficult to describe the ceremony with words, as the most powerful moments were the silent exactness of the Marines, the single bugle slowly playing ‘taps’ and a magnificent sunrise that beckoned these soldiers home."

He went on, "A powerful prayer was given, Marines saluted and then with exactness and reverence, delivered a flag draped coffin and then taps were played with the quiet beauty of homecoming. Tears were shed, and the soldiers began their long flight home. Not once was it asked ‘what rank were these soldiers’, ‘how long had they served’, ‘who were their parents’, or the myriad other questions that go along with returning home with honour. They had paid with all they had in all their imperfections. And all was enough.”



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