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Editorial: Local marine's memorial good for area veterans

 Late one night 10 years ago something happened to Howard Maninga of Ponsford that helped the marine and Vietnam War veteran cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Maninga, like so many combat veterans, experienced horrific things in war. At 19 years old, Maninga fought in Vietnam and saw close friends die. He made it home in 1968, trying to blend back into a society that didn’t welcome home these Vietnam veterans.  As a way to cope with his PTSD and to honor those friends he lost in combat Maninga started building a memorial on a hill at his Ponsford home 10 years ago.

Each year since then with the help of the local Marine Corps League Honor Guard and other veterans Howard and his wife Trudy conduct a memorial service to honor, not only Howard’s buddies killed in Vietnam as originally intended, but now all veterans.  The 10th annual service was held this past Saturday at the Maninga home on Bunker Hill Road near Posford with all the honor and reverence expected. Set atop a hill overlooking the prairie, with a wood stage, sandbag bunkers, colorful flowers, and flags flying on site, the memorial honors veterans and all they’ve given for their country.  Maninga said at one time after returning home from Vietnam he was pretty “mixed up”, like many veterans of combat. He said those buddies killed in Vietnam came to him that sleepless night 10 years ago and told him what to do, guided him in building the memorial. Initially, it was a tribute to his buddies but over the past 10 years has grown to honor all veterans and serve as a spiritually healing place for some.

“They just came to me in my thoughts at nighttime and told me what do do here. And I did what they told me,” Maninga said. “It’s kind of closure.

It helps  Guys like Roger Boyce and Gary Holk, who both attended Saturday’s service, say it does so much more than honor those veterans lost. It helps the many living veterans like themselves deal with their own PTSD, survivor’s guilt and other personal struggles.  Boyce calls the Maninga’s memorial site a “special place - a place to make peace with the past.”  Young soldiers like Maninga returned home to the United States from an unpopular war that gripped the nation in protest. Not the soldiers’ fault, they served their country, whether as volunteers or drafted into military service.  

Howard and Trudy Maninga have done a great thing in building this memorial and they say they’ll continue hosting the annual service as long as they can. What we witnessed on Saturday was a beautiful tribute to, and conducted by, a couple generations veterans.  As patriotism seems to dwindle in America we need places like this memorial on the Ponsford prairie. The Maningas and all veterans deserve our respect and our thanks for their service.  It’s a beautiful site and meaningful service all should witness so we don’t forget what is lost in war.  

PARK RAPIDS ENTERPRISE

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