Solo Mississippi Canoe Trip Calls Attention to Forgotten Vietnam Gold Star Families


Winona, MN – Gold Star families who lost relatives in the Vietnam War, have often felt like the forgotten casualties of war; the stigma and controversy surrounding the war have prevented many of these families from even talking about it. Jim Crigler, owner and president of Winona Search Group is starting a movement to change this by honoring Gold Star families for their loved ones’ sacrifice. On April 22, 2017, Crigler will embark on a solo canoe trip down the full length of the Mississippi River, stopping at 29 cities and towns along the way, to meet with Gold Star families and veterans, presenting them with a symbolic gold coin. He will also raise money for American Huey 369, a charitable organization that gives helicopter flights to veterans and their families, and conduct book signings for his new book Mission of Honor, based on letters that he wrote to his mother during his own tour in Vietnam.

“While I was doing research for the book, I met and spoke to many Gold Star families,” says Crigler. “I consistently heard the same story – no honor, no support, no thanks. This deeply moved me to realize the terrible wrong we have done as a country to these wonderful American families.” That’s when he decided to do something to right this wrong.

Crigler plans to begin the 2,300-mile trip, pushing off at the Mississippi’s headwaters at Lake Itasca. He’s scheduling stops at big and small cities along his route – St. Paul and Memphis, Winona and La Crosse – and plans to end up in New Orleans in late June. An avid rower, Crigler is the two-time defending champion of the South Dakota Kayak and Canoe Challenge, an annual race that covers 72 miles on the Missouri River.

“I will meet as many Gold Star families as I can over the next two months,” Crigler says. “I’m looking to start a movement. Paddling the length of the Mississippi is a way to bring attention to the cause and a way to raise the funds to support it.”

Crigler hopes to raise $2.5 million for American Huey 369, for the construction of a history museum in Peru, Indiana. The group is named after the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, a helicopter known as the “Huey” and used in combat by American forces in Vietnam. “Many of these families had sons who flew in these helicopters,” Crigler observes. “When they go on flights, you can see the change in them.”

Crigler plans to coordinate his stops with VFW centers in each town. He is also hoping to recruit volunteers to help promote his trip on social media.

“My goal is to honor these families,” says Crigler, “and to recognize their sons’ and daughters’ sacrifice to our country.”

To learn more about the book, visit or @missionofhonor on Facebook. Donations to the Mission of Honor tour can be made via

Below is a list of the cities and towns that Crigler plans to visit:

Bemidji, MN 
Grand Rapids, MN 
Brainerd, MN 
Little Falls, MN 
St. Cloud, MN 
Minneapolis MN 
St. Paul, MN 
Hastings, MN 
Red Wing, MN 
Lake City, MN     
Fountain City, WI 
Winona, MN 
La Crosse, WI 
Prairie du Chien, WI 
Dubuque, IA 
Clinton, IA 
Quad Cities IA/IL 
Muscatine, IA 
Quincy, IL 
Hannibal, MO    St. Louis, MO 
Cape Girardeau, MO 
Caruthersville, MO 
Memphis, TN 
Greenville, MS 
Vicksburg, MS 
Natchez, MS 
Baton Rouge, LA 
New Orleans, LA

About Winona Search Group 
Management Recruiters of Winona is a Winona, Minnesota-based affiliate of MRINetwork, specializing in executive search and recruitment within the high technology industry. For more information, visit

About MRINetwork®: 
Management Recruiters International, Inc., branded as MRINetwork®, is one of the largest executive search and recruitment organizations in the world. A subsidiary of CDI Corp. (NYSE:CDI), a global provider of engineering & information technology outsourcing solutions and professional staffing, MRINetwork has approximately 600 offices spanning four continents. Visit MRINetwork at