To the editor:
"If we build it, he will come" was a popular line from the movie "Field of Dreams." Eighteen months ago a group of individuals including Riley Lewis, Jack Caputo, Mark Frakes, Leon Christianson, Dave Kingland and Bob Havner were joined by 16 other North Iowans to build a "Welcome Home - Thank You" event for Vietnam veterans.
OperationLZ was the name selected as a Landing Zone was common terminology during the War for mission destinations. In the following months, over $260,000 from 120 individuals and businesses was raised, ranging from $5 from a widow to $30,000 from the Hanson Foundation. The LZ Program Committee "locked and loaded" a Vietnam venue of static displays, speakers, aircraft, entertainment and activities from across America.
Results show OperationLZ recorded 25,000 people attending including 2,700 Vietnam vets. Over 1,900 children from 10 schools attended Education Days, seeing and speaking firsthand with the soldiers who lived it. Those who witnessed The Wall Honor Ride from the Boondocks saw over 300 motorcycle riders and a Cobra Gunship Helicopter escort a memorial with over 58,000 names along crowded highways into Forest City.
The spirit of LZ continues today as members of the committee present LZ medallions and coins to those vets who physically or emotionally could not attend. If you know of someone deserving, LZ Committee members would love to give those veterans their Welcome Home - Thank You.
The final mission for any American soldier should be to receive a "Thank You - Welcome Home." The LZ Committee has completed that mission for 2,700 Vietnam Era veterans. There are still over 70,000 Vietnam veterans in Iowa today. It's never too late to thank a vet - especially if they served during the Vietnam War.
Riley Lewis, on behalf of the OperationLZ Committee