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Grass-roots group aims to support veterans, families

  • Article by: DEAN SPIROS
  • Star Tribune
  • July 8, 2009 - 9:27 PM

Lakeville police Sgt. Andy Bohlen is a proud veteran of the Gulf War, and feels a kinship with those who served their country before and after him. As one of the forces behind the burgeoning Warrior to Citizen campaign in Lakeville, Bohlen hopes kinship can evolve into some tangible support for returning veterans.

The Warrior to Citizen Campaign is a statewide grass-roots effort initiated by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to support Minnesota's returning veterans and their families.

Bloomington, Burnsville and Farmington are among other communities involved in the Warrior to Citizen Campaign. Each community can establish its own ways of helping returning veterans and their families.

Lakeville lists five goals for its participation in the Warrior to Citizen campaign:

• To recognize and honor local veterans and their families.

• To create a city pathway to veteran and family support resources.

• To build partnerships with and offer opportunities for those who want to assist veterans and their families.

• To provide resources and awareness of veteran issues to the community.

• To help strengthen and build support for VFW Post 210.

"We're hopeful the community will rally behind the idea,'' Bohlen said. "This is an area where I definitely think we, as a society, can do more.''

The group hopes to have its own website up and running soon at www.lakevilleveterans.com.

The Lakeville campaign kicks off Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a multimedia program at City Hall. It will feature personal stories and artifacts gathered from 30 Minnesota service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also included will be a "Wall of Honor," consisting of names and photos of Lakeville residents currently serving. According to Lakeville communications manager Sue Palm, one of the leaders of the campaign, 30 residents have been identified, but there are more to be added.

Palm said other Lakeville organizations have shown interest in hosting the Wall of Honor, so it is likely to be a traveling exhibit.

Also on Saturday, a C-130 military transport aircraft is scheduled to do a low flyover above downtown Lakeville at 5:30 p.m., at the start of the Pan-O-Prog parade. The entire crew will be made up of Lakeville residents.

An offshoot of the Lakeville campaign, Project 90, aims to renovate VFW Post 210 in Lakeville through donations. Anyone who can offer money, services or labor is welcome to participate.

Architects are preparing a design that includes a new facade, handicap accessibility and a small addition. The plan should be ready by the end of the month and will provide a rough estimate of the cost.

VFW Post 210 will celebrate its 90th anniversary in September.

"A lot of VFWs are dying,'' Bohlen said. "We can't rely on the veterans from World War II to sustain them forever.''

Dean Spiros • 952-882-9203

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