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THE PRICE OF FREEDOM: Rolfing legacy enshrined with naming of federal building, bridge
Sen . Rounds, Veterans Affairs again honoring Sioux Falls native 16 years after he made ultimate sacrifice
A Sioux Falls academic and athletic all-star rode his leg from Sioux Falls to a New York college on a soccer scholarship.
But Staff Sgt. Robb Rolfing’s patriotism and desire to be a special forces soldier took him even further — to the Iraq War following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And during a second stint in the sand, he made the ultimate sacrifice.
While helping local police in Bagdad clear an insurgent-occupied neighborhood in the early morning hours of June 30, 2007, the O’Gorman High graduate was struck by a round of enemy fire, ending his life.
And though 16 years have now passed since the 29-year-old war hero became the third soldier in the 2nd Battalion’s 10th Special Forces Group to perish in the Iraq War, the legacy of Sioux Falls’ fallen son is being enshrined with a pair of dedications that will have his name preserved in South Dakota history for decades to come.
“We feel the hurt at the time when one of our families lose a loved one, and we say we won't forget. But sometimes there's something more we can do,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, who will introduce a resolution Friday — 16 years from the day Rolfing died — to name the state’s most heavily-trafficked post office the "Staff Sergeant Robb Lura Rolfing Post Office Building.”
“We’re not going to forget,” Rounds said.
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The South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs will also host a State Bridge Dedication Ceremony on Independence Day to dedicate the northbound Interstate 229 bridge over Minnesota Avenue in his name.
Rolfing’s parents told The Dakota Scout this week their son had always wanted to be a soldier, and an elite one. And when the Twin Towers fell, he set out to become a Green Beret, yet another goal the aspirational young man accomplished.
“He was living and working in Boston when the terrorists left from the Logan Airport there,” Rolfing’s mother Margie said this week. “That’s when I lost him — that day — because he was going to go in and make sure nobody attacked America again.”
The legislation dedicating the downtown federal building is supported by the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 15, where Margie Rolfing is a member. Of three post offices located within the city of Sioux Falls, the post office located at 320 South 2nd Avenue was chosen due to its proximity to the auxiliary unit.
The city and state have also endorsed the resolution, which will not face Congressional resistance as naming dedications are routine and passed with unanimous consent.
That the post office and bridge will don Rolfing’s name will ensure future generations know who the soldier was, the sacrifice he made and why his story is important, said Rounds, who was serving as governor at the time of Rolfing’s death.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken shares that sentiment.
“It’s an honor to be part of local, state, and federal governments coming together to pay tribute to a Sioux Falls hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “It is only fitting that we permanently recognize Staff Sgt. Robb Rolfing in this way, serving as a daily reminder that our freedoms exist because of the selfless and heroic work of our service members.”
A naming ceremony for the federal building will occur following official passage in Congress. The bridge ceremony will be Tuesday, July 4 at 2 p.m. at the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance — 1600 W. Russell St. Sioux Falls.
“Naming our South Dakota bridges in honor of our fallen gives us the opportunity for remembrance, reflection, and respect—for honoring the men and women who gave their lives in service to this nation,” said Greg Whitlock, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs. “They cherished liberty and loved freedom enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life.”