By: Linda Vanderwerf

WILLMAR — Memorial Day observances for Sen. Amy Klobuchar began Monday at Fort Snelling in St. Paul and continued as she traveled through southern Minnesota to meet with veterans groups.

Klobuchar arrived in Willmar late Tuesday afternoon to visit with veterans at the Willmar American Legion. She was also there to present a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol to Trisha Appeldorn, the Kandiyohi County veterans service officer, “for her continued dedication to Minnesota’s veterans.”

About 50 people were at the Legion for the presentation and to listen to Klobuchar.

In greeting Klobuchar, Appeldorn thanked her for what she has done for veterans and asked her to continue working on two issues. It can be difficult for homeless veterans in rural areas to get housing vouchers, she said. She also praised Klobuchar’s efforts to help female veterans who have been sexually assaulted.

The Kandiyohi County office deals with both of those issues, Appeldorn said.

Klobuchar talked about the needs of veterans and of their sacrifices. She recalled service members who had died in combat in recent years and spoke specifically of some Minnesotans.

“To me their spirit lives on with all the people who serve,” she said.

Klobuchar described her experiences with the Serving our Troops organization which cooks steak dinners for deployed service members and their families at home. She met a Vietnam veteran who told her he volunteered because of the poor greeting he received when he came home.

“He said, ‘I don’t ever want that to happen to another soldier,’” she said.

The country learned a lesson after Vietnam, she said, and people have realized that disagreement over a war policy should not affect the country’s support for its troops.

“There’s been some major improvement,” she said.

Klobuchar has worked with other members of the Minnesota delegation to restore benefits to National Guard troops when rules about leave and benefits changed after they had deployed.

That helped 3,000 Minnesota service members, and 49,000 nationwide, she said.

Klobuchar said she and a bi-partisan group of lawmakers are working together to help veterans on a variety of issues, from Agent Orange to providing more and better Veterans Administration facilities.

Another effort is focused at giving service members credit for their military experience when training for civilian jobs. “When they’re paramedics over in the service, they should at least get some credit for the real world experience,” she said.

The National Guard is trying to work with deployed troops while they are still overseas, giving them information about what types of fields have job openings, so they can make plans for their return.