Three cheers for veterans
Three years ago, on April 8, 2008, a resolution was introduced to the Detroit Lakes City Council by veteran Jim Hanlon, calling for the establishment of a new veterans' memorial park.
The resolution was voted on and accepted unanimously, and on Friday -- Veterans Day -- the new Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Detroit Lakes was dedicated.
"We come here on a very special, and historic Veterans Day in Detroit Lakes," said Mayor Matt Brenk.
"Today, we not only pay tribute to the thousands of men and women from our city and our county who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces, but we also gather to officially dedicate our new Veterans Memorial Park and our new Veterans Memorial Parkway here in Detroit Lakes.
"Veterans Day in our country is a day to thank and remember those courageous patriots who have risked their lives to preserve our freedom, to thank their supportive families and especially, today is a day to thank and memorialize all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that our democracy endures.
"We mark this day as a celebration of those who made victory possible... They chose to serve a cause that is greater than self; many even after they knew they'd be sent into harm's way. They have protected us from danger, and they have given others the opportunity for a better life.
"To you, veterans, we say thank you."
Brenk went on to discuss the new park, "a permanent tribute to our veterans."
"As I said on Memorial Day this year, I can think of no more fitting tribute to our area's most important citizens than to place this beautiful park in this location. Today is certainly a day that we as citizens can step back nd take pride in what we collectively can accomplish as human beings."
Also speaking at the dedication was Vietnam War veteran George Peters of Detroit Lakes, a four-time bronze star and purple heart recipient.
Besides paying tribute to the many people who contributed their time and talents toward making the Veterans Memorial Park a reality, Peters also noted that the project is not quite finished -- the veterans have raised about $171,000, or about half of the $362,000 value that the city has placed on the park project.
"We've accepted that responsibility," Peters said, noting that the engraved granite pavers and benches that people have been purchasing as memorials for the veterans in their families will be the primary source of funding for the park -- which is intended to be "a living testament and a thank you to the veterans of Becker County."
Peters then asked for a moment of silence in honor of those veterans who had made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and noted that all veterans returning from service deserve "a hug and a welcome back."
"That did not happen for our Vietnam veterans," he said, adding that he and other local veterans have pledged "to never let that happen again."
As Mayor Brenk put it in his concluding remarks, "Let it be our call to action today that we heighten our appreciation of our veterans, and that this park be a constant reminder of their service and sacrifice."