MADISON (AP) - Thousands of Vietnam-era veterans are set to converge on LambeauField next weekend hoping for the words they've waited 40 years tohear: Thank you.
The Wisconsin Historical Society, state Department ofVeterans Affairs, Wisconsin Public Television and more than twodozen other groups have invited veterans from across Wisconsin andbeyond to the Green Bay Packers' legendary stadium and grounds forfood, camaraderie and memories.
"It is huge. It's an opportunity to really say thank you andwelcome to Vietnam veterans and their families," said eventdirector Don Jones.
The gathering, dubbed "LZ Lambeau," is part of a project todocument state Vietnam veterans' experiences. The effort, called"Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories," includes a broadcast documentaryfeaturing interviews with scores of veterans, a companion book anddiscussion groups.
The event's agenda is ambitious.
The event begins Thursday afternoon with a dedicationceremony for a portable replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial inWashington, D.C.
On Friday morning veterans will set out on a motorcycle ridefrom La Crosse to Green Bay. When they arrive they'll find about 20military vehicles, including jeeps and a medical van, parked aroundLambeau as well as a giant map of southeast Asia. Jones said hehopes veterans who served in the same areas but never knew eachother will congregate at the map and meet for the first time.
"It was a very long war. Most soldiers went over asindividual replacements," Jones said. "They have really not knownpeople who were there from the beginning to the end. They rotatedin and out. Maybe they'll find somebody on the map who was therewhen they were."
Plans also call for a music stage, according to the LZLambeau Web site. Scheduled acts include Voices for Veterans, agroup of veterans that plays in stress disorder programs at aveterans medical center in North Chicago, Ill., and She 5, a bandof then-teenage girls who performed in Saigon, Long Binh, Dong Tamand Da Nang in 1968. Their performance Friday night will mark thefirst time since the 1960s the band has played.
"Unfortunately we will not be wearing mini skirts and go goboots. haha," She 5 member Dar Ryba-Borchardt joked in a Facebookentry. She promised to play the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of ThisPlace."
Saturday begins with an opening ceremony by Wisconsin'sAmerican Indian tribes. The day's offerings include Vietnam-eraaircraft at Austin Straubel International Airport, memorabilia, asidewalk chalk area where people can write thank-you messages toveterans and an exhibit featuring the Brown County and Marshfieldlibraries' efforts to locate an obituary or newspaper story aboutevery Wisconsinite killed in action.
The centerpiece comes Saturday night with a veterans tributeceremony inside Lambeau. The proceedings are scheduled to includepreviews of veteran interviews on the stadium's screens andspeeches by Gov. Jim Doyle, soul singer Ben E. King and formerPackers quarterback Bart Starr.
LZ Lambeau winds down Sunday afternoon with a "Wiping of theTears" ceremony, an Oneida Indian ritual to console warriorsreturning from battle. That will take place in Oneida.
Wisconsin Public Television plans to broadcast itsdocumentary Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the gathering.
The only LZ Lambeau event that requires a ticket is theSaturday night tribute. Tickets will cost veterans $2 and thegeneral public $12.
Organizers said they've sold more than 20,000 tickets topeople in 28 states. Brenda Krainik, marketing director for theGreater Green Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said hotelsaround Lambeau are full for the weekend.
"It's a big deal," Krainik said. "For some it's a once in alifetime experience, being able to see their comrades again. It'sgoing to be a very heartfelt event."
Andrew Thundercloud, 66, of Tomah, a member of the Ho-ChunkNation, said he flew hundreds of missions as a medic in Vietnam andsuffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He was on the LZ Lambeau planning committee. He hopes to runacross more medics - and maybe heal himself a little.
"Most of us feel we were never thanked for the job we did. Ihad a lot of ... ill feelings when I came back, for lack of abetter word, how we were not welcomed home. You saw all the paradesin World War II," Thundercloud said. "There are a lot of peoplelooking forward to this."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Several fire departments battling a shed fire in Abrams.
An armed robbery suspect sustained life-threatening injuries after being shot in Fond du Lac County.
First responders helped ring in the holidays at the 45th annual Howard-Suamico Christmas Parade.
Christmas is just two and half weeks away, and kids and families are getting into the holiday spirit.
Single digit temps around the area caused problems in the Fox Valley Saturday morning.
The frigid temperatures forced some area communities to cancel their weekend Christmas celebrations. But New London braved the cold for its annual Holiday of Wonder Parade.