By Brian Ojanpa
---- — MANKATO — Raising funds to build a Vietnam Veteran Education Center in the nation's capitol will be the focus of a "drop-in" event Monday at Morson-Ario VFW Post 9713 in Mankato.
The VFW Ride for Healing Rally soliciting donations will go from 4:30-5:30 p.m. with area Vietnam veteran invited to share their war stories or simply congregate and socialize, Post Commander Jim Mason said.
Community members also are invited. The event will include Rep. Tim Walz and, her schedule permitting, Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
"This is a whole week deal. They'll be hitting as many towns as they can," Mason said of the rally in which VFW officials will fan out over the state in car caravans to muster support for the project in Washington.
Local veterans on motorcycles are expected to meet the caravan near the city limits and escort it to the VFW.
State VFW Commander Lee Ulferts and others in the caravan will head from Mankato to Brainerd for another rally. The Brainerd event starting Friday will include a Vietnam veterans traveling memorial wall, military flyovers and entertainment.
Ulferts said the weeklong event honors the sacrifice and services of Vietnam veterans, many of whom never received the welcome home that they deserved.
He said the Education Center will house the "legacy" of Vietnam veterans.
The facility will be located across the street from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and will use digital technology to bring veterans' stories to life.
The display will include The Wall of Faces, providing digital images of the 58,282 whose names are memorialized on the wall. The exhibit also will include a tribute to those who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.