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On the links to honor service

About 100 golfers participated in the first Vietnam Veterans Tee it Up for the Troops golf tournament at Emerald Greens June 22.

The ceremony kicked off with an Army veteran skydiver dropping out of a plane, flying a U.S. flag behind him and landing on the nearest green. Coincidentally, he was followed by an eagle as he guided himself to the ground.

There was also a ceremony for both the U.S. flag and the POW MIA flag. The 173rd Airborne Color Guard, comprising Vietnam veterans, accompanied the U.S. flag. The Laotian Hmong Special Guerrilla Unit of Veterans and Family Development USA Color Guard was also present in recognition of those who fought alongside Americans in Southeast Asia. Riders of the Minnesota Patriot Guard accompanied the POW MIA flag.

The recognition ceremony and golf tournament came about after a few Vietnam veterans attended a Tee it Up for the Troops tournament last September, said Jim Sullivan, co-chairman of the committee that organized this event. They met with a fellow Vietnam veteran, Mike O'Rourke, who is a friend of Sullivan's and also the manager at Emerald Greens Golf Course, and secured Emerald Greens for the event.

For its first year, the event was well attended.

"We're pleased with the turnout," Sullivan said.

About half of the roughly 100 golfers were Vietnam veterans, he said.

He added that he hopes to see the event return about the same time next year and gave special thanks to the golfers, Emerald Greens and those who participated in the ceremony this year.

Proceeds from the event went to the Vietnam Veterans Education Center in Washington D.C. and to the Camp Ripley Memorial Chapel Monument to honor the eighteen Minnesota Army National Guard Soldiers who lost their lives in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle.