Today's Dave Kranz Column on the SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication in Pierre

If you'll allow me to indulge myself, Dave Kranz writes in today's Argus about a project I'm involved with which has nothing to do with politics. It's the South Dakota Vietnam War Memorial Dedication in Pierre on September 15th and 16th:
South Dakota Vietnam Veterans by the thousands will make a pilgrimage to Pierre this fall to find a remedy for the hurt they have felt for four decades.

It likely will be an emotion-charged gathering. Some will go still feeling the physical pain from their time served. Others still will be affected by emotions from the experience or loss of comrades.

There will be a dedication of the Vietnam War Memorial, but Gov. Mike Rounds says the gathering is for other purposes.

Prominent this day is facing the sadness many veterans still feel because a seemingly ungrateful country never welcomed them home after the politically charged conflict overtook a common-sense response.

There are about 28,000 Vietnam veterans with ties to South Dakota, and so far, more than 7,500 Vietnam or Vietnam-era veterans registered. Sixty-six percent (5,200) of the registered veterans say they will attend the event in Pierre Sept. 15-16.

They will bring more than 20,000 family members and friends along.

A relatively small number of Sioux Falls veterans have responded, says John Moisan, chairman of the Vietnam War Memorial Committee.

"We have 850 from Sioux Falls with all combined categories. We think the potential from there is roughly 5,000 to 6,000. We talk to lots of folks about it, and despite the publicizing, we hear people say they didn't know about it," Moisan said.

The event will offer a lot of different things, Moisan said.

"It is a welcome home, a parade, a dedication of the statue, an opportunity for thousands of South Dakotans who recall those years - whether good or bad - who need to have some healing. We still hear of the hard feelings of the way it was handled. Some of these people are close to 60 years old, and they want some kind of closure, and this is the opportunity," Moisan said.

South Dakota is the only state to have sponsored an event to honor Vietnam/Vietnam-era veterans on this scale.

"If they attend, they will never forget it. If they don't attend, they will probably regret it," Moisan said.
Read it all here, and if you're not planning on attending, you should.

You can also view the website at One thing you'll notice is that it looks like no other State of South Dakota web pages (or at least it didn't at the time I designed it) and it's intended to invoke a mood more reminiscent of the Vietnam Era for those who were there.

If you want grit and raw emotion - I'd point you to go read the "In Country stories." I've read each and every one, and they are lightly edited, if at all. At times, these were really tough to read without becoming emotional. The story that hits me the hardest is one by a SD Vietnam Vet, a nurse now living in Kansas, with the following passage:
My first week at the hospital was spent in the emergency room and the personnel were planning ahead for the arrival of the 10,000th patient. They planned to give that patient a gold watch to commemorate the event. However, when the 10,000th patient arrived in the emergency room, he was missing both arms. The staff quietly put the watch away and never again talked of commemorating patient count.
Take a few hours, and just sit and read the stories of vet's experiences, in their own words.

It's truly an honor to have the opportunity to honor Vietnam Era Veterans in this way, and again, I hope you can attend in September.


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