World War II veteran Alwyn Martinson was among the veterans honored at groundbreaking ceremonies Monday for the new Veterans Memorial Park in Vergas.
The first phase of the memorial project is finished: ornate concrete pads, walks and flagpoles are now in place, and Martinson and other veterans helped dedicate the park with a symbolic groundbreaking using colorful shovels.
Flags were also raised on the seven poles, including Old Glory, the Minnesota state flag, the prisoner of war/missing in action flag, and flags from the five traditional armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard. Room was left for a Space Force flag pole, but it has not been erected yet.
“There are many ways veterans are honored,” Vergas Mayor Julie Bruhn told the crowd. “I feel the most enduring commemorative is a constructed memorial. It has a majestic appearance, it inspires us, it serves as a reminder of the sacrifice for our freedom and it stands tall as an everlasting tribute.”
She praised the “visionary architects” of the memorial: Lyle (and Pam) Krieg, Doug Safar, Dennis Breitzman, John Lotzer and Henry Ditterich.
The committee members are members of the Vergas Lions Club, which is leading the ongoing effort to raise $85,000-$100,000 to build the veterans memorial park, located at the Vergas baseball complex.
The site already has walkways and two paved circular areas, one with a large military star in the middle and one with the flagpoles. The fundraising effort is about halfway there, and on Monday, the Vergas Community Club donated $2,000 towards the memorial.
Contractors Sonnenberg Excavating, Kost Materials and Classic Concrete made a priority of getting it done, Safar said.
The next phase is granite work, Breitzman told the crowd.
There is room for eight to 10 granite benches, and granite pillars will hold engraved metal plates memorializing veterans.
Bruhn said she hopes the memorial encourages people to learn the stories of local veterans, “those who made it home and those who didn't,” and she said it’s important to share those stories to truly honor their sacrifice.
“As I look at the flags, I’m reminded of a quote by an unknown author that has resonated with me: ‘Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it -- it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it,’ and I would add that it continues to fly because of the service of our veterans!”
The veterans memorial committee is raising money several ways:
Through the sale of granite benches, which require a $5,000 donation and are engraved to remember a service person, family or organization.
Through granite pillars, which will hold engraved metal plates memorializing a service person. The cost is $150 for an engraving.
Through a flag fund, to help replace worn flags. Planning for the flag display is preliminary, but for sure the memorial will host an American flag and flags representing the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines, Safar said.
The committee is also applying for local and regional grants, and is hopeful that individuals and businesses come through with donations to help meet that $100,000 goal.
The West Central Initiative, a Fergus Falls-based foundation that serves nine counties, including Otter Tail and Becker, is helping handle donations, which are tax deductible.
To donate, make your check payable to WCI, and write Vergas Veterans Memorial on the memo line. Mail to West Central Initiative, P.O. Box 318, Fergus Falls, MN, 56538-0318.
Drop off a payment at the City of Vergas office.
Online donations can be made at www.wcif.org/VVM
Gifts of cash, stocks, appreciated securities, real estate, life insurance and IRA rollovers are also accepted.
Members of the organizing committee are: Lyle Krieg (701-238-1575); John Lotzer (701-680-9189); Henry Ditterich (320-226-3727); Dennis Breitzman (701-202-6337); and Doug Safar (218-201-2554).