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Pioneer Editorial: Celebrating Vietnam era veterans

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Saturday is a special day in Minnesota. After more than 35 years after the end of the Vietnam War -- a time of tumult for our returning servicemen and women -- the state of Minnesota will honor its Vietnam veterans at the State Capitol in St. Paul.

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"Minnesota Honors Vietnam Era Veterans" is a program sanctioned by the Minnesota Legislature that will honor those veterans on Saturday. Many Vietnam veterans who were shunned as they returned home in recent years have found solace in a number of events geared to honor their service.

Perhaps triggered by a wave of patriotism after Sept. 11 and ongoing and strong support of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the time was right to pay tribute to all our veterans, especially those who were given the cold shoulder during the Vietnam era when they simply answered the call to duty by their country.

"This event is designed to unite the Minnesota community in support, gratitude and celebration of the brave men and women who served during the Vietnam War era," says state Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, who authored the bill establishing March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Minnesota. Saturday's event is another step in the right direction, Howes notes.

One of the stirring displays of the day will be the ongoing showing in the lower Capitol Mall area of the replica of the National Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. The program held in Bemidji last year at the showing of the traveling wall brought many Vietnam era veterans, who found warm and genuine thanks for their sacrifices from the Bemidji community.

Saturday's events, which open at 9 a.m. with a Gold Star Family Prayer Service, includes a Medal of Honor plaque dedication to honor the 55 Minnesotans who have received that high honor, a remembrance ceremony, reading of the roll call of those Minnesotans killed in action or missing in action during Vietnam, a parade of colors and four separate flyovers of Vietnam-era aircraft and current era fighters.

The main program, at 2 p.m., features a host of speakers led by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Evening entertainment includes a Bob Hope impersonator.

Registered veterans and their families will also have an opportunity to reconnect with other service members and learn about veterans benefits which may be available to them.

The day is long overdue, but still necessary in a long, arduous healing process. Many of our Vietnam veterans remain scared for life as a result of the sacrifices they made. But events like Saturday's help to show that community support is there, as well as a belated and very public thanks.

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