by Jim Boyle
Plans are in the works to give Vietnam veterans the warm welcome they never got upon their return home from war.
The effort will be statewide and include 60 stopping points with Otsego being one of them, the Department of Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars has announced.
“This is monumental,” said Jim Hesselgrave, a member of the Elk River-Rogers VFW Post 5518. “There have been welcome home events, but they have been centralized.”
The weeklong “Ride for Healing” will reach across the state.
The Elk River-Rogers VFW will host a rally at noon on May 30 at the Veterans Memorial Sports Complex in Otsego. All veterans and members of the Elk River/Otsego community are invited.
State Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Lee Ulferts has asked that all communities statewide gather for an event honoring the sacrifice and service of Vietnam veterans.
Ulferts, a combat-wounded veteran of Vietnam, said the ride will also give communities a chance to contribute to the cause of building the Education Center at the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“This Center will help remind the Nation of the trauma suffered by these veterans,” he said. “I see this as a ‘healing’ process and the welcome home that many Vietnam veterans never received.”
The Education Center at the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial will house the legacy of the Vietnam veteran generation and their sacrifices, Ulferts said.
The week will start at the Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial in St. Paul on May 27 with four teams departing for a statewide ride covering more than 60 communities and end in Brainerd on May 31, 2013, for a two-day event which features the AVTT Traveling Wall, military flyovers, ceremonies and entertainment.
“This ride will reach out to areas that haven’t been touched with a statewide welcome home and at the same time raise money to help memorialize what Vietnam veterans sacrificed for generations to come,” Hesselgrave said.
The local VFW Post asks that local veterans and the community come together as the Ride For Healing visits the Elk River area on its way to Brainerd. The Otsego event will last from noon to 2 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Sports Complex, 7350 Quaday Ave., Otsego. A state VFW official will deliver a message honoring and thanking Vietnam veterans for their service.