Local heroes honored with Sanford International admission and veterans honor the flag

Local heroes honored with Sanford International admission and veterans honor the flag
Published: Sep. 17, 2023 at 8:35 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As some of the top golfers in the world faced off, spectators took in the festivities. None of them more special than an outpost of local heroes. Thanks to sponsors, Scheels and Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort, Sanford honored active military members, retired veterans and first responders with free admission on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“How wonderful it is to have your own area so you can converse with some of the veterans and have an opportunity to see what’s going on here,” said Jerry Denman, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and former chapter president for the Vietnam Veterans of America in Northeast South Dakota. “It’s just a beautiful spot. I mean, we’re right in between seventeen green and eighteen tee box, so it’s a heck of a fun time for us all.”

Denman and four other members of the VVA Northeast South Dakota chapter saw an opportunity to not only take in a day of golf but to honor the flag.

“A lot of people have died for that flag,” Denman said. “It’s something we should honor and keep that tradition going.”

They traveled from the Watertown area and spent the majority of their time rotating as one man stood by the flag when the flagstick was taken out. With an act of respect and honor, they hoped to spark conversation about the work of the VVA and the United States’ role in the Vietnam War.

“I think a lot of the history of Vietnam is disappearing because it’s sixty years old,” described Bob Syring, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. “I think we’re getting a little bit of visibility into the public again. That’s important to us because we’re being recognized as well by the public here.”

Syring made sure to add thank first responders who were honored, many of whom are volunteers. When he first moved to South Dakota he himself was a volunteer fireman and appreciates the work of current volunteer first responders.

“They’re amazing. The things that they do, people have no idea what some of these people do and what they sacrifice for their communities and it’s so community-oriented,” Syring said.

Being recognized may be a small gesture, but Syring and Denman said that it means the world to Vietnam veterans because it stands in stark contrast to the way they were treated when they came home from war.

“A lot of us when we came back, the first thing we did was we got rid of our uniforms,” Denman explained. “People, friends of mine were spat on, were cussed at and they weren’t treated very well. Since we formed this organization, Vietnam Veterans of America, we’re showing what we’re capable of doing and what we have done for our nine-county area.”

Syring said that South Dakota has helped him find a more positive reception than the ‘baby-killer’ name-calling and spitting that Vietnam veterans endured. He grew up in California and he said that his experience being received by South Dakotans and honored for his service was special.

“Pierre recognized us [VVA] one time up at the capital building. My feeling was, that was one of the first times I felt like I was home,” said Syring a little choked up.

The VVA chapters in the region are just some of the many ways that people are trying to help veterans.

“That’s our main goal right now is veterans helping veterans and we don’t want any veteran left behind anymore,” said Denman.

On Sunday, the veterans received handshakes and thank-yous from the spectators, the caddies and the golfers. When they came home from the war, they witnessed and experienced poor treatment. Sunday was another example of Vietnam veterans receiving the hero’s welcome they deserved.