A seed was planted several years ago when the Waconia Lions Club organized a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2007 for 119 World War II veterans. “The experience was fantastic, phenomenal,” says Joe Gifford, public relations chair and former president of the Waconia Lions Club. “When you put veterans with similar life experiences together, they do open up and have conversations that they may not have even with their families.” A few weeks after the trip, Gifford received requests from veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars, asking about a trip to pay tribute to their shared experiences. After 11 years, it’s finally about to take place.
The trip is set for April 25 and is provided without cost to Korean and Vietnam war veterans who are living in Carver County or were residents of the county during their time of service. The memorial trip will commence with a brief registration and breakfast at the Trinity Lutheran Church. Once in Washington, D.C., the group will visit the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and attend a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Organizers are attempting to set a lunch between the veterans and U.S. senators. In the afternoon, the veterans will arrive at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial, marking the climax of the day. “They have comrades buried there,” Gifford says. “And we make the memorial visit part of the application process by asking the participants if they have a name of a comrade that we can help find in advance.”
Upon their return, a welcome home celebration awaits. “We will work with the Waconia High School Marching Band and area churches, and local ministers will come and say a prayer for the end of the day,” Gifford explains.
“Our club has always supported veterans,” Gifford says. “They have done so much for the country, so we just want to give something back and show that we recognize their efforts.”
Donations are welcome to help finance the trip. “We really want this to be a community effort,” Gifford says. “We want the veterans to know that the community appreciates them and want them to go.”
Checks should be made payable to the Waconia Lions Veterans Fund and sent to the Waconia Lions Club, C/O Veterans Memorial Trip Committee, P.O. Box 21, Waconia, MN 55387; in-person donations are accepted at Hometown Bank, Everson’s Hardware, UFC Farm Supply, Mocha Monkey, Mackenthun’s Fine Foods, Chumly’s, Klein Bank, Marketplace Foods and the Waconia VFW. More information is available at the website here.