Vergas Veterans Memorial dedication draws hundreds

One veteran swallowed hard, placed his hand flat on the pillar, and with tears rolling down his cheek he said, “It’s me.”

Gary Gunstinson is overtaken with emotion after seeing his name engraved in the Vergas Veteran's Memorial on Saturday, June 11, 2022, before the dedication ceremony began.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

VERGAS — Gary Gunstinson raised his hand and touched a finger to a name on a granite pillar at the Vergas Veterans Memorial on Saturday, June 11.

“Is that someone you know?” someone asked.

Gunstinson swallowed hard, placed his hand flat on the pillar, and with tears rolling down his cheek he said, “It’s me.”

“Wow,” the crowd-goer replied. “You were given a Purple Heart?”

Gunstinson, who served in the Navy from 1966-1970, nodded. A Purple Heart medal is presented to a service member who was wounded, greatly sacrificed themselves, or paid the ultimate price, while in the line of duty.


After having a moment to take in the emotions the memorial stirred, Gunstinson said he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and because of that, he doesn’t venture outside of his rural Vergas home too often.

“The design is really impressive,” he said, noting it was worth coming out to see. “It’s beautiful. I’m very patriotic, so seeing this makes me emotional.”

Hundreds of people attended the Veterans Memorial dedicaiton in Vergas on Saturday, June 11, 2022.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Vergas resident Mac Kvam also appreciated seeing his name on a monument for the time he served in the Navy between 1980-1984, which includes the U.S. involvement in Lebanon during that turbulent time.

“I have five people from my family on those pillars and seeing their names, I get a feeling I can’t quite describe,” Kvam said. “I think they did a great job on the memorial and added another reason to visit Vergas.”

The Vergas Veterans Memorial project entered the public discussion phase in the spring of 2021. Work with the city council helped find a prime location for the memorial alongside a main thoroughfare – County Highway 4. The groundbreaking ceremony was held during Memorial Day weekend 2021.

The memorial stretches about 62-feet from end to end and includes granite memorial pillars and park benches, both of which are engraved with veteran’s names. There are spaces for a total of eight pillars. There are also flags for each branch of the military, as well as the U.S. flag.

Alwyn Martinson (right) was given the honor of raising the U.S. Flag at the Vergas Veteran Memorial dedication on Saturday, June 11, 2022. Martinson is one of two World War II veterans living in Vergas.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The dedication allowed several dignitaries of the Vergas community to share details about the memorial and praise those that made it possible. The late Rodger Palmer was credited with coming up with the idea, and jump-starting the project through his seemingly effortless ability to delegate and encourage people. The 1957-1959 Army veteran wasn’t able to see the finished memorial, but the memorial committee members noted his legacy will live on.

Perham resident Diane Germolous said she was awe-struck at how quickly the memorial came together.


“When I first heard about it, I signed up to put his name on it,” she said while pointing at her husband Chubb, who served in the Army from 1966-1976. “I sent in the money, but was told it might not happen. I guess I wasn’t the only one to support the project.”

The memorial committee has more plans to enhance the memorial, including additional pillars for veteran’s names to be posted, landscaping and more. To encourage future planning and to support the work already done, Lee Dahlgern presented a $2,000 donation on behalf of Vergas State Bank and Vergas Insurance Agency.

Several members of the Frazee High School band were also there and played the song for each military branch as their respective flags were each raised.

Frazee-Vergas High School Band members and its director Brian Selander (third from left) played each military branch's song as their respective flag was raised during the Veteran Memorial dedication in Vergas on Saturday, June 11, 2022.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

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