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Governor, UW President, Vietnam Veteran to Speak at Memorial Rededication
March 21, 2012 — A Vietnam veterans' memorial at the University of Wyoming will be rededicated at 3 p.m. Friday, March 30. The memorial is located on the east corner of Ninth and Ivinson streets, southwest of Old Main.
The ceremony is part of the second annual Wyoming Veterans Welcome Home Day, a date that is significant in the state's history. March 30, 1973 is when the last combat troops left Vietnam and the Wyoming contingent returned to the Cowboy State.
Gov. Matt Mead, UW President Tom Buchanan, and Lee Alley, Wyoming Veterans Commission vice chairman, will speak at the ceremony at the refurbished memorial.
Alley, who returned from Vietnam and graduated from UW, is one of only two living Wyoming Distinguished Service Cross recipients. Alley is the author of the book "Back from War," which outlines the treatment of returning Vietnam veterans.
The other living Wyoming Distinguished Service Cross recipient, Barry Gasdek, will assist with the unveiling. The UW rededication is among several official Wyoming celebrations. Dignitaries from the Wyoming Veterans Commission and the adjutant general of Wyoming, Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, will participate in the UW ceremony.
In the late 1960s, the UW Alumni Association erected a memorial on campus honoring Wyoming soldiers killed in Vietnam. In the past, informal gatherings of Vietnam veterans and their families were held at the memorial the Friday before Father's Day. Other celebrations have been held around the memorial too, including the UW student group, Keepers of the Fire, drumming to honor the veterans.
UW established a Veterans Services Center on campus in fall 2010 to serve veterans who enrolled at UW to complete their college degrees. A project coordinator was hired at the center, and the need to refurbish the Vietnam Veterans Memorial came through student feedback, says Dolores Cardona, UW associate dean of students, who led a task force two years ago that reviewed the needs of campus military veterans.
A reception will follow the rededication ceremony in the UW Veterans Services Center, located in Room 241 of Knight Hall. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2221 also will host a Welcome Home Veterans Day dinner at 5 p.m. that day. There is no charge for the barbecue, but donations will be accepted. Both events are open to the public.
"The barbecue is specifically to honor the Vietnam veterans, but all military personnel and their guests, and also community members are welcome to attend," says Sgt. Eric Dirkes, Laramie VFW junior vice commander. "Last year, we served almost 90 people, and we hope more will attend this year."