North St. Paul Veterans Memorial construction to begin this spring

The memorial design resembles the American flag and features a granite greeter monument, cut into the shape of Minnesota, along with a remembrance wall. (submitted graphic)
The memorial design resembles the American flag and features a granite greeter monument, cut into the shape of Minnesota, along with a remembrance wall. (submitted graphic)

On Thursday, two local Vietnam veterans, along with a city council member and local historian, undertook a mission far less risky than those faced by soldiers in combat. Their appreciation for those who have served, however, imbued their excursion with a parallel sense of accomplishment and pride.

They drove to Cold Spring to inspect a 6-foot-high black granite monument that will be placed at the entrance to the North St. Paul Veterans Park, at Margaret Street and Highway 36, across from North High School. The $13,360 monument is shaped like the state of Minnesota, with a sand-blasted American flag blowing in the wind above the "Star-Spangled Banner" lyrics on one side and an image of a U.S. soldier in 2012 battle dress on the other.

"Actually, we couldn't see too much because the pieces that were done for us were in crates," says Paul Anderson, one of the men who made the trip. "But I think it's really going to be an impressive display when it's done."

Dan Fisher, one of the Vietnam veterans who went, agrees.

"I [was] excited to actually see the creation, albeit packaged up, ready for shipment to North St. Paul," he says, adding the engravers were especially impressed with the details of the soldier image that planners are keeping under wraps until the monument's unveiling.

"They loved the dignity of the soldier image on the other side," he says.

Years in the making

The Veteran's Park project began nearly four years ago, under the leadership of the North St. Paul Veterans Memorial Committee co-chairs Dan Fisher and Carl Hurtgen. On Feb. 3 the North St. Paul City Council approved final design and construction plans and approved the $9,900 Legacy Grant that the state awarded the city to help fund materials and landscaping costs for the memorial. Construction will begin once the ground thaws, and the dedication of the memorial is slated for mid-summer. For now, planners are focused on finalizing paver orders, which are due April 1 if sponsors want them installed in time for the inaugural event.

Those who want to honor a veteran are invited to purchase a personalized paver that features the veteran's name, military rank and branch, along with the name of a conflict that marked his or her period of service. Each paver will be laid along the memorial's walkway: five red and white stripes that will lead visitors from the entrance to the central star and memorial wall, which will display the emblems of all six military branches and the names of locals honored as fallen heroes.

People can certainly purchase pavers after April 1, says Terry Furlong, the group's liaison to the City of North St. Paul. But those who miss the initial deadline may have to wait another year before the next batch are prepared and laid.

Planners are confident more people will want to participate when they see the monument and work that's been done.

"We think it's going to be a snowball effect," Fisher says of the paver sales. "People are going to see it and want to be a part of it."

Remembrance, education

The North St. Paul Veterans Memorial Committee is a nonprofit organization, run in collaboration by the American Legion Post, VFW Post 1350, North High Air Force JROTC and the City of North St. Paul.

As of Feb. 6, the veterans memorial committee has raised $116,424 by selling 548 engraved pavers, along with five park benches, and through donations, says the group's treasurer Tom Trost. The city's Parks and Recreation Commission originally donated $10,000 to help get the project started, and the city has also allocated staff resources for the project, designated park property for the memorial site, and agreed to handle contracting for all concrete installation, landscaping improvements and irrigation.

Members of the memorial committee, along with Mayor Mike Kuehn, applied for state bond funds and succeeded in securing an additional $100,000 for the project.

A history path will surround the entire monument, serving as an educational resource on the contributions local veterans made during each war, dating back to the American Civil War.

"It's a privilege to honor the veterans that I've known and served with, and their families," says Fisher. "Forty years ago, it wasn't that way. It's paying it forward."

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.

 

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