Vets expo provided assistance, info to area veterans

The U.P. Veterans Expo put on Friday and Saturday inside the Superior Dome in Marquette likely helped a lot of people.

Hundreds stopped in to learn about benefits they may have been eligible for for years, but had no idea about.

The expo put a special emphasis on Vietnam-era vets, a group that comprises more than half of Michigan’s veteran population, according to Suzanne Thelen, director of strategic communications and veteran engagement for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, which hosted the event.

Many Vietnam veterans signed a 50-year anniversary banner at the expo, where a special Vietnam War exhibit was on display as well.

A large focus was also placed on presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in support of military operations.

Even without direct exposure to Agent Orange, many Vietnam Era vets may have come into contact with it in other ways, such as coming into contact with planes that flew over Vietnam, and thus would be eligible for health care benefits for diseases associated with this toxic chemical.

We’re happy to see this kind of event brought to Marquette, a central location for many veterans living in the Upper Peninsula. We think reaching out to Vietnam-era vets in particular is a wise move, since many of those men and women returned home to a less-than-welcoming atmosphere.

Many of these veterans, drafted into the service, had no choice but to join the U.S. military effort.

We believe getting our Vietnam vets the benefits they so richly deserve is exactly the right thing to do.

We’re also happy to the state of Michigan working on outreach efforts to help our veterans access the benefits and services they earned through their years of service to this country.

We hope many veterans walked away from the Superior Dome with a better understanding of what types of benefits they qualify for, and we hope the state continues to reach out to Michigan veterans.