MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -- The group that erected a Vietnam War memorial in Mankato
is disbanding.

But its members will continue to meet to celebrate their service and remember
their comrades who did not come home.

The Vietnam Veterans of Southern Minnesota formed 35 years ago with a mission
to commemorate fallen friends and support one another through challenging times,
said member Wayne Sharp of Mankato.

The group's chief achievement was the memorial on Stoltzman Road that bears the
name of the young men from Blue Earth and Nicollet counties who died serving in
the Vietnam War, The Free Press reported.

It's one of only a few such Vietnam War memorials in the state, group members
say. The city of Mankato donated the land. The organization designed, raised
funds and built the memorial with no other public assistance in 1989, member Tom
Hallett said.

The group also provided financial and other support to other veterans memorials
over the years, most recently in St. Peter.

It was this same group that brought a replica of the Washington, D.C., Vietnam
Veterans Memorial Wall to Mankato. Members took turns standing guard over it
24-7 for its week-long visit.

In its early days the group also organized trips aimed at helping Vietnam
veterans heal from their time in combat and the unwelcoming reception they
received when they returned home. They visited the memorial in Washington, D.C.,
and marched in belated welcome home parades across the country.

The nonprofit's board of directors decided this spring its mission has been
largely completed.

"We are all growing older and there are now other organizations for veterans
help," Sharp said.

While the nonprofit is officially no more, the Vietnam Veterans of Southern
Minnesota lives on as a social group.

Its Last Man's Club will celebrate its 30th anniversary later this month. The
VFW was filled to capacity with 175 Vietnam veterans initiated into the club in
1990. Once a year they gather to swap memories, toast classmates who died in
service and members who have died since. There are 125 members still giving the
toasts.

The last living member will get to drink a 1971 bottle of whiskey brought home
from Vietnam by Ron Rose and later donated to the club.

While the Last Man's Club is closed to new members, all Vietnam War veterans
are invited to the Vietnam Veterans of Southern Minnesota monthly lunches. At
noon on the third Wednesday of each month they gather at the Mankato VFW to
socialize and share advice on issues such as obtaining veterans benefits.