Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 21, 2013

Gearing up to heal

Annual veterans reunion set for third weekend in September

By Mike Fletcher Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Each year, thousands of veterans pack the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization’s grounds on Ind. 26 , eight miles east of U.S. 31, for a four-day reunion.

This will be the Vietnam veterans reunion’s 31st year, bringing veterans from all over the country to eastern Howard County.

As usual, the 1,000 campsites on the grounds are all booked up, but thanks to the Greentown Lions Club there will be 300 campsites available at $15 per night at the fairgrounds 5 miles north of the veterans grounds, HCVVO President Bill “Dollar Bill” Lisby said.

The fairgrounds campsites feature electricity, water hookups and a dump station. Campfires also are allowed with certain restrictions. To reserve a site, call Larry Larowe at 765-628-2093 or 765-419-3737.

Entry to the event costs $10 per person for the weekend. Participants will receive an armband that allows them to come and go as they please, Lisby said.

“We’re going to have some good entertainment with newer bands and some oldies,” Lisby said. “We’re hoping to have some kind of a flyover. The government stopped doing that for a while, but it’s starting to come back.”

Veterans keep coming back each year because the event evokes such emotion, Lisby said.

“In my third year as president, I saw a guy standing in the parking lot crying,” said Lisby. “I thought something was wrong and asked him if he was OK. He said ‘I’ve never been better. When I came through the front gate, I felt something special.’

“We call them the healing fields, and they are,” Lisby continued. “It really helps [the veterans]. And it’s not just for Vietnam veterans. It’s also for the new veterans. Eventually it’s going to be their place.”

He added new veterans receive a free, first-year membership.

“We feel once they come through the gate for the first time, they will come back.”

Along with reuniting veterans who served together in Vietnam and other wars, the reunion features a host of speakers, bands, food vendors and merchandise vendors.

Army veteran Walter “Bird Man” Crawford, who operates a bird sanctuary in St. Louis, also is bringing two eagles back to the reunion.

On the opening day, Dane Clark, who is currently John Mellencamp’s drummer, will entertain the crowd with his band. A reunion favorite, Spike and the Bulldogs, will follow Clark’s performance. On Friday, Sept. 20, Lemon Wheel band will be the headliner. The reunion entertainment will close Saturday, Sept. 21, with the Old Dudes Rock band. Other musicians performing include Ricky Lee, Russ Chandler and Kelly Trudell. The reunion concludes Sunday, Sept. 22, with a church service.

If you go:What: 31st Annual Howard County Vietnam Veterans Reunion When: Sept. 19, 20, 21 and 22 Where: Veterans organization grounds at 8313 E. 400 South For more information about the reunion call 765-628-0297 or log on to www.hcvvo.org