May 27, 2024

2024 Memorial Day Information

The annual Memorial Day ceremony is co-hosted yearly by VVMF and the National Park Service to pay tribute to members of America’s armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam and in all conflicts.

Watch the Full Ceremony Watch the Keynote Address by Mr. Smith

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Vietnam veteran and Founder/Executive Chairman of FedEx Corporation

Keynote Speaker - Frederick W. Smith

Keynote Address

Frederick W. Smith

Frederick W. Smith, Founder and Executive Chairman of FedEx Corporation, embodies a legacy steeped in service, leadership, and a commitment to excellence. Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Smith entered Yale to pursue a degree in economics in 1962. After graduating from Yale in 1966, he served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, which included two tours of duty in Vietnam. Smith’s valor and dedication shone brightly during this time in the Marine Corps, where he served as a rifle platoon leader, a company commander and forward air controller (FAC) in the OV-10.

Honored with the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts, Smith concluded his military service in 1970. Just a few years later, he launched the original air-ground Federal Express network, which began operations in 1973 to serve the rapidly growing high-tech, high-value-added sectors of the economy. From a tiny startup with just 14 airplanes which delivered 186 packages its first night, FedEx has since grown into a $90 billion global enterprise that serves more than 220 countries and territories. Today, FedEx operations include 719 aircraft, more than 500,000 team members worldwide currently handle approximately 15 million shipments each day.

In Smith’s words: “What I learned in the Marines has stuck with me for all these years. When people ask what principles have guided me since I started FedEx, my answer is the leadership tenets I learned in the Marine Corps during my service in Vietnam.”

Throughout its 50-year history, Smith has ensured FedEx supports nonprofit organizations that help our men and women transitioning from the military and their families to find meaningful careers, continue their education, or start their own businesses. Additionally, Smith and FedEx have supported the memorials and museums nationally that recognize and remember the service and sacrifice of our armed forces.

Smith has been named in Forbes “100 Greatest Living Business Minds” and has also been named a top CEO by both Barron’s and Chief Executive magazines. Beyond his professional endeavors, Smith remains deeply involved in philanthropic initiatives, actively contributing to veteran support programs and community outreach efforts. His impressive accolades are far-reaching, and he has always remembered to uphold veterans, having served as co-chairman of both the U.S. World War II Memorial project and the campaign for the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Major General Donna Barbisch, USA (Ret.), Vietnam veteran

Vietnam Women’s Memorial Speaker

Major General Donna Barbisch, USA (Ret.), Vietnam veteran

Donna Barbisch, DHA, MPH, began her Army career in the Army Student Nurse program
in 1967. She is a Vietnam Veteran, having served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 91st Evacuation
Hospital, Chu Lai, Vietnam. During her Vietnam service (1969-1970), she administered
care to military and civilian casualties of war. The severity of casualties, limited resources,
and collateral human suffering had a significant impact. It provided a foundation focused
on improving outcomes in crisis situations. After a distinguished military career of more
than 38 years, she retired as a Major General.

She gained expertise in countering weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and is a foremost
subject matter expert in emergency preparedness and resiliency for catastrophic
disasters, terrorism, and unconventional threats. General Barbisch had an illustrious
career as a national security policy analyst, healthcare management professional,
professor, and dynamic leader. Her experience includes major successes in the private
sector, US governmental organizations, and the international community.
Today General Barbisch focuses her efforts on developing optimal solutions to complex
and challenging Wicked Problems. She cultivates evidence-based solutions to national
security threats of terrorism, natural disasters, and emerging infectious diseases. She
works with individuals and organizations to build and mentor strong leaders for
tomorrow’s greatest challenges. She is an internationally acclaimed speaker who moves
people to action.

Donna Barbisch was a registered nurse and a certified registered nurse anesthetist
(CRNA). She received a Master in Public Health with a focus on policy and leadership from
UNC Chapel Hill, and a Doctorate in Health Administration and Policy from the Medical
University of South Carolina.

Michael Petersen, LCDR USN, Retired, Vietnam veteran

Guest Speaker - Michael Petersen

Michael Petersen, LCDR USN, Retired, Vietnam veteran

Lieutenant Commander Mike Petersen United States Navy Retired, served 27 years in the Naval Service. He served both as enlisted and as an officer. Seven years active duty, to include the Navy Seawolf helicopter squadron in Vietnam, the most decorated squadron in Navy history. He flew 269 combat missions receiving 17 Air Medals and the Purple Heart. His other active duty tours included Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Four, serving the Marine ready reaction force in the Mediterranean. He served as a flight instructor and flight leader at Helicopter Training Squadron 18 training Navy and Marine Corps aviators. Leaving active duty in 1971 he continued to serve in a reserve capacity. Duties included Carrier Air Group Mediterranean 1082 and NAS Alameda 0178. When leaving active duty he became a home builder and real estate developer in Pensacola Florida. When the real estate industry soured in 1981 he returned home to Minnesota where he opened and continues to operate his insurance agency in Chaska Minnesota He is married to his bride Suzan and they have 3 children and 9 grandchildren. He is a life member of the Chaska, Minnesota VFW and Chaska American Legion. His passion is teaching young people that: “the price of freedom is not free“.


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