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Fargo Air Museum exhibit honors Vietnam vets

Josh Francis / Forum News Service Several North Dakota leaders including Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and Moorhead (Minn.) Mayor Del Rae Williams​ present an American flag to Dan Stenvold, president of the North Dakota Vietnam Veterans of America, third from left.

FARGO--Vietnam War veterans gathered Saturday in the Fargo Air Museum to be honored for their service by several North Dakota and Minnesota leaders at the opening ceremony of a Vietnam exhibit.

The veterans heard remarks from U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams.

Veterans said the exhibit is important to help remind the public about their service during the war.

"It's for education and outreach," said North Dakota Vietnam Veterans Association President Dan Stenvold.

He said one of the purposes of the exhibit and his group is to educate the next generation about the war and its impact on those who served.

Minnesota State University Moorhead professor Camilla Wilson, who was a war correspondent in Vietnam, spoke at Saturday's event, too, and shared her experiences from the war and after she returned.

The exhibit and speakers also commemorated Canadian-born soldiers who crossed the border to join the U.S. military in the '60s and '70s to fight in the war.

A group of Canadian veterans visits every time the exhibit returns to the Fargo Air Museum, 1609 19th Ave. N. The museum's exhibit, in addition to displaying a tribute to the North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota service members who died, displays a memorial to the more than 120 Canadian soldiers who died.

Rob Purvis, of Winnipeg, served in the U.S. Army with four of his friends. One of his friends didn't return home and has his name displayed on the wall.

"We take our memorial wall to a lot of different venues and our No. 1 question is 'We didn't know Canadians served,' " Purvis said.

Since Canada wasn't a belligerent in the war, the government in Canada barely recognizes the veterans of the Vietnam War, and most Canadians and Americans are unaware of the Canadian soldiers, Purvis said.

Aside from the tribute walls, the exhibit features art from Jim Fletcher called, "NAM; Now a Memory" that will be retired shortly after its appearance at the Air Museum.

There are also Vietnam era planes, helicopters and vehicles on display at the exhibit, which runs through June 1.

The museum expects 3,000 to 4,000 veterans to come through the exhibit.

Josh Francis

Josh is a general assignment reporter for The Forum and the sports reporter for the West Fargo Pioneer. Josh previously interned as a reporter for the Reading Eagle in Reading, Penn. and worked as a freelance reporter for the Orange County Register in California. He welcomes story ideas via email or phone. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com.

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