Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Faribault: A Willow Street welcome honoring Vietnam War vets August 31, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:12 PM
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Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #72 group by my house

 

A DOZEN OF US GATHERED late Wednesday afternoon in my front yard to honor those who served and those who died in the Vietnam War.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #4 drawing flag with chalk

 

As we waited for the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to arrive from Owatonna, the adults chatted. And some of the kids chalked American flags onto the sidewalk fronting my Willow Street property.

 

Vietnam Memorial Wall processional, #1 woman waiting with flag

Across the street a woman waits for the processional to begin.

Three American flags, spaced evenly along the boulevard, lifted occasionally in the breeze on a stunning August day here in southeastern Minnesota.

Leading the way...

Leading the way…

The Wall processional presented a great opportunity to honor these veterans. How well I remember the protests of decades earlier, the unrest and open hostilities expressed toward Vietnam vets. On this day in my community, in my neighborhood, in my yard, we gave them the respect they deserved. Whether or not you agree with the war matters not. Respect matters.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #16 back of beginning

 

I saw honor in the lengthy lines of bikes, cars and other vehicles, in the waves, the American flags…

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #19 watching

 

There’s something deeply moving about participating in an event like this. I can only imagine the emotions felt by the Vietnam veterans who today—from Owatonna to Medford to Faribault and in between—witnessed a warm welcome home.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #25 jeep

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #29 red jeep with wall sign

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #30 row of bikers

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #32 trike

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #34 back of 2 bikes

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #40 bikes and flags

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #46 biker & POW flag

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #49 biker waving

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #50 bikes

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #57 Vietnam vet on bike

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #58 red car

 

The Traveling Wall arrives in a trailer near the end of the processional.

The Traveling Wall arrives in a trailer near the end of the processional.

Volunteers will be setting up the wall on Thursday morning at the fairgrounds.

Volunteers will be setting up the wall on Thursday morning at the fairgrounds.

The trailer and accompanying vehicles continue north on Willow Street.

The trailer and accompanying vehicles continue north on Willow Street.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #71 vets van

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #76 utility vehicle

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #9 American flag in chalk

My friend’s teenage daughter chalks a message of thanks on the sidewalk in front of my home.

FYI: The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall opens Thursday afternoon at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault. Click here for a detailed schedule of events from now through Labor Day. Check back for a follow-up post on a pre-eve stop I made at the fairgrounds.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Faribault: Prepping & waiting for the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:28 PM
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IN A FEW HOURS, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall arrives in Faribault.

I am prepping. And so are others.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #1 bikers

 

Around noon, a contingent of bikers, motorists and others swept past my Willow Street home en route to the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna. There the group will gather for a 3 p.m. departure. The entourage will travel through Owatonna, Medford and into Faribault, ending at the wall construction site, the Rice County Fairgrounds.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #13 red vehicle

 

Here at my home, three flags are staked in the boulevard, a sight that prompted the Faribault group to honk horns and wave as they passed by.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #24 basket of American flags

 

A basket of American flags sits inside my front door, awaiting kids I expect here for the processional. I’ve dug out the sidewalk chalk to keep them busy while waiting. Ice cream treats are stashed in the freezer. Water bottles are cooling in the fridge.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #25 patriotic t-shirt

 

I’ve swiped my husband’s American flag t-shirt from his dresser drawer.

Shortly before invited friends, and maybe others, arrive, I’ll spray for mosquitoes.

Today’s processional promises to be a memorable and moving experience, especially for those of us old enough to remember Vietnam. I expect the kids to learn something today about this chapter in America’s history.

Faribault, I hope you will show your honor and respect by lining the processional route and by showcasing your patriotism with American flags.

Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

Vietnam wall replica arrives in Faribault today with opportunities to honor & heal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Many Vietnam veterans attended the ceremony.

I photographed this Vietnam veteran during a ceremony at Faribault American Legion Post 43 in July 2013. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

VIETNAM WAR. Those two words can create angst in those of us who remember that turbulent time in our nation’s history. Unrest and protests headlined media coverage. Veterans found themselves returning to a country ungrateful for their service. They were shunned, neglected, disrespected.

But today, with decades since the end of that war and with an aging population of Vietnam veterans, thinking has shifted and we as Americans recognize the need to honor these men and women who served and those who died doing so.

The Harley dress code: black leather.

Bikers will be among those escorting the traveling wall from Owatonna, through Medford and into Faribault between 3 – 4 p.m. today. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

This afternoon in my southeastern Minnesota community of Faribault, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall arrives under escort for a several-day stay at the Rice County Fairgrounds. For those living along the route, like me, this presents a public opportunity to pay respect. I hope Faribault residents and others will show an enthusiastic and honorable patriotic welcome as the motorcade proceeds through town. Click here to see the specific processional route for the entourage, expected to arrive here around 3:30 p.m. today.

I hope, too, that many will visit this 80 percent replica wall of the original memorial in Washington, D.C. It will be open 24/7 from Thursday afternoon through early afternoon on Labor Day. I am certain seeing the thousands of names thereon will make a powerful personal impact.

A young boy peruses the pavers honoring veterans at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault.

Pavers at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault honor Vietnam and other veterans. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

There is hope also among local organizers for healing as written in their mission statement:

To offer veterans and visitors an opportunity to experience both an educational and healing experience, and offer an important historical contribution to the understanding of our nation’s history.

Healing is possible, even decades after the Vietnam War ended.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling