VFW Post 1720 planning Vietnam Veterans ceremony June 17-18

The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 1720 in Grand Rapids will be hosting a two-day event this June 17-18 with the purpose of honoring local Vietnam Veterans in Itasca County. Joel Kvilvang, Senior Vice Adjutant, shared more details about the event and other updates from the VFW Post 1720.

In 2017, the state and federal government officially designated March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. VFW Posts can apply with the Department of Defense to host an event for local Vietnam veterans to honor those who fought, POWs, and those who died while serving in the Vietnam War. The Department of Defense also supplies special lapel pins for those being honored at these ceremonies. 

Kvilvang is working on the plan for the VFW Post 1720’s Vietnam Veterans event this June 17-18 and wants to reach as many local Vietnam veterans as possible in order to honor them at this event. He shared that they decided to host the event in the summer, rather than March 29, in order to be outside and have more room for people to attend. 

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On June 17 there will be a number of activities for attendees including the Classic Car Club, a band playing music from the 1960s and 1970s, and Vietnam relics on display. 

“Just spend the day celebrating veterans and the Vietnam veterans,” said Kvilvang. He added, “It’s going to be an exciting event for us.”

The official ceremony for Vietnam veterans will be in the afternoon on June 18. A local community member will be chosen to speak at the event.  Kvilvang estimates there are 180 Vietnam veterans in the VFW Post 1720, but wants the community to know that all Vietnam veterans can be honored at this ceremony even if they are not members of the VFW Post 1720. 

“I want all the [Vietnam] veterans in Itasca County, whether they are VFW members or not, to contact us so we can get them a pin,” stated Kvilvang. 

Kvilvang has until June 1 to order the lapel pins for the ceremony. He encourages anyone to reach out to him if they are a Vietnam veteran, or know of someone who is a veteran but may not be able to make it to the event. Those who have mobility issues or are in nursing homes can still be honored, Kvilvang shared. The VFW Post 1720 will make sure to get out to anyone who cannot make it in order to give them their lapel pin. 

To contact Kvilvang about being a part of the Vietnam Veterans event in June, call 218-244-5301 or email kvilvang@paulbunyan.net. 

VFW Post 1720 Updates

In March 2020, a fire destroyed the VFW Post 1720’s building in downtown Grand Rapids. The building was built in 1928. Just one year later, the post was able to move into a new space at 1212 NW 4th Street, Grand Rapids, MN 55744

“Our fire was tragic, but in a way beneficial for the fact that we were able to open up a larger post,” Kvilvang said. “The other post was in the middle of downtown, the parking was bad, we didn’t get as many people, our gambling profits for donating to people were not as much.”

The VFW has a large focus on charitable giving and service within communities, and that has only grown since moving to the new building. Kvilvang shared that in just one month they have given about $40,000 to local agencies such as Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, Foster Love Closet, local fire departments, little leagues, and many more. Many of these donation funds are raised through charitable gambling at the VFW. He added that they are able to give to many types of organizations, and that having 501(c)(3) status is not a requirement. 

“The biggest thing we want people to know is that we are big on community,” Kvilvang said. “If you have an event going on, or if you have a need, come to us and see. Write us a letter because we’ve had people who have had houses burn down or who’ve had cancer request if they could get help for a fundraiser. Some get a donation, some don’t. Obviously veterans do get preference or families of veterans get preference on that. But it doesn’t hurt to send it.”

One of the ways veterans get assistance is through service dogs. Yet, according to Kvilvang, there is a four-year waiting list for service dogs currently because there are few trainers available in the area. 

“We have a list of guys who want dogs like you can’t imagine. But the training is so hard to get,” said Kvilvang. 

He asked if anyone knows of a trainer that is available to train service dogs, to get in contact with him. 

Additionally, the VFW Post 1720 is working to support veterans through building connections. Kvilvang noted that it can be tough for veterans to talk with their friends and family about their struggles, but it can be easier talking to another veteran. In June, there are plans to begin hosting a get-together on Wednesday nights just for the purposes of connecting and checking in on each other to make sure everyone is doing alright. 

“We’re here to help. We want to know,” said Kvilvang. “And I want people to know that this VFW is not the post that it was 25 years ago or even 10 years ago. Even though we have a lot of the history here, a lot of the same members, we want them to know that this is open. Please come join us. What do you get from the VFW besides the magazine and the emails? For the membership you’re getting a brotherhood.”

The VFW has a number of connections with other support systems in the community and can help veterans get assistance in many areas such as mental health services, drug and alcohol dependency, and navigating Veterans Affairs. 

Kvilvang encourages anyone to reach out if they need help, especially if there is a veteran in need. For those looking for support from the VFW, contact Kvilvang by emailing kvilvang@paulbunyan.net (Attn: VFW Needs), send a letter to 1212 NW 4th St, Grand Rapids, MN 55744, Attn: Adjutant, or call the VFW and leave a message by calling (218) 326-9937.

 

 

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