Community honors veterans and their families during inaugural Vets in the Park

Aug. 27—GRAND FORKS — Several community members attended the inaugural Vets in the Park held Saturday, Aug. 27 in University Park to honor veterans and their families.

The idea for Vets in the Park started with father and son duo Terry and Terrance LaVallie, both of whom are veterans.

Terry LaVallie said the event was a chance for veterans to meet one another and to get available resources. LaVallie said he has met many veterans in the community by planning and promoting the event over the last six months.

"The idea behind this is to bring this all together so veterans can come and enjoy themselves and find out what's available for them," LaVallie said.

Along with honoring veterans, LaVallie said the purpose of Vets in the Park was also an opportunity to honor the families of veterans.

"Every one of us has a family," LaVallie said. "Not only does a veteran sacrifice even to the point of giving [their] life, so do the families."

LaVallie and Love in Action President, Doris Lebby, said they're hoping the event gets carried on every year.

Vets in the Park was hosted by Love in Action and Red River Community Action, along with many other sponsors and supporters throughout the community.

Along with the LaVallie's and Lebby, several other event committee members helped make the event possible. Some other members include Safari Berry, a Supportive Services for Veterans Families Case Manager with the Red River Valley Community Action who helps homeless veterans and their families in the region, and Michael Ortiz, who runs 22 A Day Outdoors that brings awareness to PTSD and provides veterans free outdoor adventures.

Guest speakers from Grand Forks and across the state were in attendance including Sen. Richard Marcellais, UND President Andrew Armacost, Base Vice-Commander Col. Delbert Rivera and Bernice Delorme from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

"We can never fully repay our veterans who died in battle, our veterans who were wounded," Marcellais, a veteran himself, told attendees. "We can however recognize and thank the veterans still living today. Today is our privilege to say thank you to all our veterans to let them know that we appreciate them."

Attendee and Navy Nurse veteran Judy Schumacher said the event was helpful for veterans and families to meet one another as it can be hard to find someone who has gone through the same experiences.

"People have no idea what vets go through," Schumacher said.

Vets in the Parks also offered food, games and live music by Kenny and the Classics and The Blue Whalers. Donations received at Vets in the Park went towards paying for the event.