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By Rep. Sondra Erickson
Establishing March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Minnesota is a chance for all of us to recognize the sacrifices made by those who served in the war.
Governor Tim Pawlenty recently signed into law a bill that I co-sponsored that gives Vietnam veterans their own annual day of recognition. The law was created to offer military veterans who served in Vietnam a pat on the back, a gesture they deserved but did not receive when they returned home from battle.
I had both a brother and a brother-in-law and several former students among the 68,000 Minnesotans who served in Vietnam. Unfortunately, many of the soldiers who survived the war were spit on and otherwise disrespected upon their return home. The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. lists the names of 1,072 Minnesotans who died in service. More than 58,000 Americans died serving in the war.
Sadly, it took us 35 years to officially recognize the sacrifice our Vietnam veterans made. Formally expressing our gratitude to Vietnam veterans and memorializing those who gave their lives for America not only is overdue, it’s a sign of progress. Family members who served in Vietnam have told me how difficult it was returning to a country that largely had turned its back on anyone involved with the war.
Thankfully, times have changed for the better.
March 29 was selected as the date of recognition because that date in 1973 was the day that the last 2500 troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam, ending 11 years of military involvement in what remains the longest war in U.S. history.
As Gov. Pawlenty said before he signed the bill, “These men and women served with great valor. The way they were treated at the conclusion of the war is shameful and never should be repeated.”
I agree with the governor. The fact our Vietnam veterans – finally –have been welcomed home is something that should make us all proud. Now it’s official.
Sondra Erickson represents District 16A in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including all or parts of Benton, Mille Lacs, Sherburne, and Morrison counties. Erickson taught English and journalism at Princeton High School for over 30 years until her retirement in 2000. First elected in a 1998 special election, Erickson was re-elected in the 1998 general election and every two years since. She resides in Princeton. To sign up for Rep. Erickson’s e-mail updates, log on to www.house.mn/16A.
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