2017-09-07 / News

Vietnam War veterans to be honored with Oct. 21 dinner in North Branch

By JEFF HOGAN
810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com

NORTH BRANCH — It has been 50 years since the end of direct United States military involvement in the Vietnam War, yet many veterans of the conflict have never been formally thanked or acknowledged for their service.

The Lapeer County Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemorative Committee wants to change that — and is planning a “Welcome Home Honorary Dinner” at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at the North Branch Wesleyan Church on M-90, just west of the village. The homecoming event is open to all Vietnam-era veterans (1955-1975) and a guest to honor them and their family for their service and sacrifice.

The buffet-style dinner event in October will include guest speakers, music and will include a display of the Michigan Traveling Wall that holds the names of 2,661 Michigan Vietnam servicemen that are no longer with us. Twenty-two Lapeer County residents were killed or died of disease or injuries sustained during the eight-year war that ended in 1975.

Other Vietnam-era memorabilia will also be on display as well. The wall will be escorted from Ray C’s Harley- Davidson in Lapeer to Wesleyan Church by motorcycle riders from throughout the region.

Area students will have an opportunity to visit the Michigan Vietnam Traveling Wall during its visit to the community, while the display will also be open to public viewing from noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20 and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21.

The Oct. 21 dinner in North Branch for veterans culminates three years of events that began in 2015 to mark the end of the Vietnam War for the United States. Among the events, in March 2015 the Quilt of Tears was on display at the American Legion in Lapeer. The three-day event drew about 300 to view the quilt and other Vietnam-era memorabilia.

The Eastern Michigan State Fair in Imlay City has also hosted educational booths for veterans to obtain information as well as receive a commemorative Vietnam veteran pin.

Last year at Dryden High School, a student-led group called Veterans Esteem Team (VET) held a recognition dinner for veterans, where an additional 38 commemorative pinnings were performed.

Additional events this year are planned as well, including a Veterans Summit to be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9 at Lapeer-DuPont Airport in Mayfield Township. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Office-sponsored event. The event is a collaboration between the local Veterans Affairs Office, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and many others.

The summit, explained Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Director Ed Ronders, will essentially be a “veterans village” created to help the men, women, and their families understand what’s available to them in terms of benefits and services — and have a fun at the same time.

To commemorate National POW/ Recognition Day, at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15 a program will be held at the Hadley flag pole monument (across from the library on Hadley Road in downtown Hadley). The event is sponsored by the Vietnam Commemorative Committee.

The Vietnam committee welcomes donations to supports its final event — the October dinner in North Branch. Financial donations will go toward the dinner, rentals and entertainment. Checks may be made to: Vietnam Commemorative Committee, PO Box 894, Lapeer MI 48446.

“We hope we have a great turnout of our local Vietnam War veterans. This is our opportunity to properly thank our veterans who served and sacrificed so much,” said committee member Linda Bonner.

To RSVP for the dinner, call Bonner at 810-724-8541 or mail a response indicating the veteran’s name and their guest to: Honorary Dinner, 5062 Hunters Creek, Attica MI 48412 or lgbonner@yahoo.com

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