An address from a Vietnam POW promises to make this make this Monday’s Veteran’s Day events particularly memorable.
On Monday, Air Force pilot Col. Don Heiliger will provide the keynote speech at Yellow Medicine East High School’s annual Veteran’s Day Celebration to be held in Espeland Gym at 10:00 a.m.
Granite Falls VFW member Ray Pederson became acquainted with Heiliger and his story during a chance encounter at a church convention this past June. Later Pederson would ask Heiliger to provide the address for the local Veteran’s Day program, recognizing an important message within Heiliger courageous story.
”What he went through is something that no man should have to experience,” said Pederson. “People need to know the price that was paid. What he went through, the sacrifices that man has made, so that we have the freedoms we do.”
Heiliger was shot down in North Vietnam on May, 15 1967 and would go on to spend nearly the next six years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. There, he would undergo incredible physical and mental strain, but also find solace in life-long bonds forged with fellow POWs.
After his release, Heiliger chose to stay in the Air Force and earned his master’s degree in international relations.
According to Pederson, Ron Fagen has offered to fly out to Heiliger’s hometown of Madison, Wisconsin over the weekend to pick him up for Monday’s proceedings. In addition to his Veteran’s Day address that morning, Heiliger will also speak during the evenings Veterans Dinner.