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Minnesota National Guard
Decades later, a welcome home for Vietnam veterans

LITTLE FALLS — With a steady drizzle falling on him, water began to pool around Bill Filet’s eyes after a ceremony Sunday to honor Vietnam veterans at Camp Ripley

But the moment Filet spoke, it became clear that the water, now streaming down his cheeks, had very little to do with the gray skies and much more to do with the ceremony he’d just been a part of

“It’s very moving, and it’s a long time coming,” Filet said “It’s an honor to be here”

Filet, along with 349 other Vietnam veterans, was honored Sunday as part of Camp Ripley’s annual open house The event was labeled as a welcome home for Vietnam vets, and while it had been decades since most of the veterans gathered Sunday had returned home, the crowd welcomed them as if they’d just stepped foot back on American soil

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“It’s nice, I don’t know how else to describe it but nice,” said Ken Roeber, a veteran hailing from Pillager
Roeber was moved at the thought of so many people coming out to support him and his Vietnam brethren He also was happy to be around so many veterans who had similar stories

“It’s just nice to be with another group of veterans,” Roeber said after the event

Those gathered at Sunday’s ceremony were there to show support and do a little something extra for those who had done so much for them The appreciation for the group was evident the second that the first vet stepped off one of the many buses, which arrived via police escort to the base

Servicemen and women from past and present lined up to greet the veterans, and many more spectators from the stands and around the outdoor meeting area cheered and whistled as the group took their seats

“You define us as soldiers,” Post Commander of Camp Ripley Col Scott St Sauver said in his address to the crowd “Your sacrifices make us who we are as soldiers today”

Sauver said that it was only fitting that Camp Ripley used its open house as a platform to welcome home the group of veterans He was adamant that without that group, things could be much different for those who serve today

“I’d like to thank you,” Sauver said

Sauver wasn’t the only one to offer thanks It was the common theme among each speaker who addressed the crowd Sunday But the thanks wasn’t just for the fact that the veterans served, it also was because Vietnam veterans have consistently showed support for the groups sent to battle after them There’s little bitterness for the treatment that many Vietnam vets received when they came home Instead, any frustration seems to have been turned into energy geared toward making sure future generations of soldiers get proper support

“You made a difference in the lives of people in Vietnam whether you know it or not,” Major Gen Rick Erlandson told the group “You’ve changed our nation and made it better You’ve stood up and answered the call with overwhelming support”

It’s important to show a unified front when it comes to supporting other veterans, Roeber said

“A lot of the guys are moving and leaving their families,” Roeber said “I think it’s important to support all veterans”

Seeing hundreds gathered Sunday with a flags in one hand and the other extending in greeting, it was clear that Roeber wasn’t the only one who felt that way

11:54 PM, Sep 18, 2011  

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