Two Jasper County natives have decided to make a push to make the In Memory program a statewide initiative next year.
Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop and Dan Gannon, a member of the Iowa Veterans Affairs Commission, are leading the effort to make the program more widespread.
The In Memory program is designed to recognize in-counry Vietnam veterans who died after they came home from the war. Society didn’t treat them well after they returned, so this is a way to pay honor and respect to those veterans and their families who may have gone years without being recognized.
This year during the national program in Washington, D.C., Jasper County had 33 veterans honored. Bishop said the plan is to have 100 from Iowa honored next year, which exceeds what other states put forward.
“To put a little perspective into that, the entire state of Indiana had 11 this year, so that’s a pretty aggressive goal,” Bishop said. “Having been there this year and seeing the healing that takes place and just how important this is, we are going to work hard to get 100 Iowans total inducted into the program next year.”
It can sometimes be hard to get into contact with the families of veterans who have died because of lack of contact information, but Bishop discussed the plan they have to get the word out around Iowa.
“We are going to be going around to VFWs, Vietnam veterans groups, American Legions ... To just explain the program, why it’s important and to get them started,” Bishop said.
Another way it can be difficult to locate veterans and families is the way the veteran is verified to have served. Bishop said it can be difficult for some families to obtain these materials.
“Not just anybody can nominate somebody or submit their names. You have to have a DD-214 (Discharge from Active Duty), you have to have a death certificate, but if we don’t have a family member still around to provide a DD-214 it is very tough to get ahold of one of those,” Bishop said.
The new effort will switch its focus from only Jasper County to veterans across the state of Iowa. Organizers hope to identify those veterans and get them honored at the national event in Washington, D.C., with an emphasis on assisting families of veterans for the cause.
“We are going to do everything we can to get to every in-counry Vietnam vet that has passed away since the war and we are going to try and get them inducted,” Bishop said.
The focus of the program is to not only recognize those service members who fought but also the families who supported them once they came home and dealt with the PTSD and other medical issues and to honor the sacrifices of families as well.
“Participating in the program this year after it was all said and done, we realized how important this was ... In a lot of ways the ladies that suffered with the guys that had the PTSD and Agent Orange they suffered right along with them. All the wounds of the war weren’t visible,” Bishop said.
Contact Dustin Teays at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org