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Veterans encouraged to tell their stories

EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. - Clif Sorenson served in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972.

He was stunned when his son, Jason, came home from middle school several years ago and said he needed to interview a Vietnam veteran -- and asked his father if he knew any.

"I was remiss in not telling him my legacy," Sorenson said. "I shared everything with him. I learned something there, about sharing my legacy -- it's so important."

Sorenson, 67, of Eau Claire was the keynote speaker Saturday at a ceremony to recognize veterans at the Eau Claire County Fair. About 80 people gathered for the event.

Sorenson urged other veterans to share their stories with loved ones as well.

"Be proud of what you did in the military," Sorenson said. "My eternal gratitude for your service in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard."

Sorenson urged veterans to stand up and be heard by elected officials.

"Veterans count," he said. "Call (elected officials), email them, tell them your needs and desires. Look at their records; make sure they are your representatives."

The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to change to better serve veterans, Sorenson said. He said they need more services and help.

"Speak out when you see injustices to veterans," he said. "We have many homeless veterans, and veterans who are suicidal."

Sorenson urged people to look at ways they can get involved and volunteer, such as working at the veteran's homeless shelter in Chippewa Falls.

"You can help with the spiritual needs of your veterans," Sorenson said.

Kathy Gehrke, a member of the fair's promotions, said Saturday was FFA and military day at the fair. Members from six different veteran's organizations in Eau Claire and Chippewa counties were on hand for the event.

"We're recognizing them and thanking them for their service," Gehrke said. "It's to show our appreciation for everything they've done for our country."

chris.vetter@ecpc.com

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