Nothing Could Let Them Forget
For several years, a group of veterans had been talking about doing something to remember veterans in west central Minnesota. Several had their own scars from combat, where being forgotten was a common theme. Together they were the driving force behind their dream, a beautiful new Veterans Memorial Park. It’s located on the corner of Broadway Street and Eighth Avenue in Alexandria, Minnesota. It anchors historic downtown Alexandria at the south end and welcomes visitors from all over the U.S.
As a reporter, I was able to walk alongside this group of veterans through many of the steps. They wanted to make the park special and unique, a long-lasting memorial and tribute to those who have honorably served in the armed forces of the United States going back to the 18th century.
A focal point of the park is the 9-foot granite replica of the Liberty Bell placed in the center of a pentagon and star. There are nine flagpoles displaying the flags of the United States, state of Minnesota, POW/MIA, Army, National Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. Another highlight is the collection of large granite monoliths standing in the park, engraved with the names of more than 7,000 area veterans, living or deceased, with connections to west central Minnesota.
The ground-breaking ceremony was in August 2019. Members from each military branch, alongside civic leaders, tossed the first shovels of dirt. The rain that day seemed to emphasize the struggle to get to that moment, yet after an emotional address, VMP spokesperson and Vietnam veteran Russ Oorlog shrugged off the showers, saying, “We’ve been through a lot worse than this.”
Like the rain, in the months that followed, donations and contributions continued pouring in. In Spring 2020, after years of fundraising, collaborating, and planning, the park was ready; however, the first planned celebration had its own challenges. The grand opening was delayed due to an executive order restricting public gatherings. Eventually, the day came. People gathered for an emotional beginning to what has now been home to not only numerous civic events and celebrations, such as those for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, but also individual visits by friends and family members.
The mission has been accomplished, recognized by the words written across the park’s back wall, “Let no veteran be forgotten.” The park is now open to everyone, around the clock, every day of the week.
By Joe Korkowski