Veterans, family, friends honor fallen comrades during convention in St. George

ST. GEORGE — White crosses lined the grass on Saturday at the Dixie Convention Center, each cross bearing the name of a soldier that sacrificed everything in the battle for freedom. Veterans gathered to honor those lost, to support those returning home, and to enjoy the unbreakable bond they share.

Veterans, families and friend mingle during event hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah Chapter 961, Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, April 23, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Veterans, families and friend mingle during event hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah Chapter 961, Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, April 23, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Many attendees gathered for a ceremony where they were given the  opportunity to put the names of fallen loved ones who died while serving in the military on crosses that were placed on the lawn in front of the Dixie Center St. George, appropriately themed, “In Remembrance.”

The memorial was part of the third annual convention hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah, Chapter 961, where veterans from all branches of the military can come together and support not only each other, but to support those who are coming home now from military service.

“We didn’t have anywhere to turn when we came home, and many of us suffered for a long time, veteran Joe Wells said.  We don’t want to see the guys coming home now to go through the same thing.”

L-R: Joe Wells, Ernie Aguayo at convention hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah Chapter 961, Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, April 23, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
L-R: Joe Wells, Ernie Aguayo at convention hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah Chapter 961, Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, April 23, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Wells served in the United States Army, 173rd Airborne Division, during Vietnam.

The convention also provided information and resources that are available to veterans, some that they may not even be aware of.  With a wide array of business and service organizations present, veterans have access to the help that many of them need.

“Veterans Service Officers are available to help process claims and provide information on various services,” Bruce Solomon, licensed clinical social worker with the Veterans Administration, said.

Air Force JROTC at event hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah Chapter 961, Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, April 23, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News
Air Force JROTC at event hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah Chapter 961, Dixie Convention Center, St. George, Utah, April 23, 2016|Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“So, the room is full of people that serve veterans in a lot of different ways,” Solomon said.  “It’s a cafeteria for veteran services and information.”

The “Guard a Heart Foundation” was also on hand to offer free blood tests. Guard a Heart has a long history of working with veterans and teams to provide specific education and detection tools that serve members of the military and their families.

According to the Guard a Heart Foundation, this would be particularly important because evidence linking PTSD to coronary heart disease is substantial.

This year’s event is special.  2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam conflict. Of the 9 million men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during America’s involvement in Vietnam, from November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, approximately 7.2 million veterans are living today.

Vietnam Veterans of America is a nonprofit organization formed in 1978 by a small group of veterans in an effort to address the needs of those who served and were affected by the conflict in Vietnam. The group strives to support and promote issues that are important to Vietnam veterans, to help create a new identity for the current generation of veterans and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans. Its full range of goals also aim to help Vietnam veterans have access to health care and to serve the community.

The organization’s mantra is:

Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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