BLUE EARTH-NICOLLET COUNTIES VIETNAM VETERANS' MEMORIAL

IN LATE 1986, A CALL CAME FROM THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS OF SOUTHERN MINNESOTA TO FIND A PROJECT WHICH WOULD HELP INCREASE ITS MEMBERSHIP, AND HELP BIND THE MEMBERS INTO A COHESIVE GROUP WITH A SINGLE GOAL; TO MAKE US FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES WHILE GIVING SOMETHING TO OUR COMMUNITY. ONE OF THE MEMBERS BROUGHT UP THE IDEA OF A MEMORIAL. AFTER THE MEMBERSHIP THOUGHT ABOUT THE IDEA FOR TWO WEEKS, WE VOTED TO GO AHEAD WITH THE IDEA.

SIMULTANEOUSLY, WE STARTED TO EVALUATE SITES THAT THE CITY HAD AVAILABLE FOR MEMORIALS, AND PASS THE WORD AMONG VIETNAM VETERANS AND FRIENDS THAT WE WERE LOOKING FOR DESIGN IDEAS FOR OUR MEMORIAL. IN FEBRUARY OF 1987, THE MANKATO CITY COUNCIL GRANTED US THE USE OF A FINGER OF LAND WHICH EXTENDED INTO THE SLOUGH OFF OF STOLTZMAN ROAD. THE NATURAL BEAUTY OF THIS AREA HAD ITS OWN APPEAL, BUT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF STOLTZMAN ROAD HAD A VERY SPECIAL MEANING. THE ROAD IS NAMED AFTER CORPORAL GEORGE STOLTZMAN, THE FIRST AREA MAN TO DIE IN VIETNAM.

AFTER EVALUATING A NUMBER OF IDEAS, WE CHOSE TWO. ONE, PRESENTED BY JOHN DOMEIER, GAVE US THE BASIC CONCEPT OF HOW WE COULD BEST UTILIZE THE LAND. THE NEXT IDEA CAME FROM KEVIN MCLAUGHLIN. HIS WAS THE THEME OF OUR STATUE, AN AMERICAN FLAG BURSTING THROUGH A PIECE OF ROCK. THE SYMBOLISM OF THE FLAG IS THE RETURN OF THE VIETNAM VETERAN, WHO STRUGGLES TO FREE HIMSELF OF HIS ROCK AND RE-ENTER SOCIETY. YOU WILL NOTICE, HOWEVER, THAT THE FLAG HAS NOT FULLY REENTERED SOCIETY, AND IS STILL PARTIALLY HIDDEN BY THE STONE, SYMBOLIZING THAT WE HAVE YET TO FULLY INTEGRATE OURSELVES BACK INTO SOCIETY.

THE NEXT TASK WAS TO FIND SOMEONE WHO COULD TAKE THE CONCEPT, AND MOLD IT INTO A REAL OBJECT. WE HAPPENED TO GET LUCKY IN THAT A LOCAL ARTIST, TOM MAEGHER MILLER, WAS JUST FINISHING A WORK IN TOWN, AND WAS AVAILABLE AND WILLING TO ACCEPT THE COMMISSION ON OUR PROJECT. IN JUNE, VETTER STONE DELIVERED AN EIGHT TON BLOCK OF KASOTA STONE TO THE FARM WHERE TOM CARVED HIS LAST STATUE. TOM STARTED TO CHIP AWAY. LITTLE DID WE KNOW THAT HIS GRASP OF KEVIN'S CONCEPT WOULD BE SO COMPLETE. HE INTERNALIZED SO COMPLETELY THE STRUGGLE TO BE SET FREE FROM THE ROCK, THAT IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY, YOU WILL SEE THOSE STILL INSIDE THE ROCK BEGGING FOR FREEDOM FROM THEIR BONDS.

NEXT WE HAD TO START TO CHIP AWAY AT THE FINANCES. HOW WOULD WE PAY FOR OUR PROJECT? WE STARTED TO ADVERTISE, KNOCK ON DOORS, GO TO COUNTY FAIRS, AND WE EVEN HAD TWO FUNDRAISERS TO HELP US OUT. FINALLY, WE REACHED OUR GOALS THROUGH THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE IN BLUE EARTH AND NICOLLET COUNTIES, THE BUSINESSES, THE SERVICE CLUBS, AND THE VARIOUS VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS.

IN JULY, SURVEY SERVICES AND TWIN CITY TESTING DID AN ON-SITE SURVEY AND A SOIL TEST OF OUR SITE. THE RESULTS WERE PASSED ON TO KAGIMEIER, SKAAR AND PAULSEN ARCHITECTS TO FORM INTO A FINAL BLUEPRINT ACCEPTABLE TO THE CITY OF MANKATO.

IN MID-SEPTEMBER, WEB CONSTRUCTION STARTED WORKING ON OUR JOB SITE, FINISHING EVERYTHING EXCEPT A FEW FINAL TOUCHES. SOUTHERN MINNESOTA CONSTRUCTION (SMC), INC. MOVED IN TO BLACKTOP OUR PATH. A FEW DAYS AFTER THAT, CREATIVE LANDSCAPING STARTED TO PLANT THE SHRUBS, TREES, AND GRASS WHICH WOULD HELP TO SET OFF OUR MEMORIAL. THEN, ON OCTOBER 26, 1988, WE SET OUR STATUE IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR MEMORIAL.

ALL THIS TIME, MANKATO TECHNICAL INSTITUTE WAS WORKING ON THE INDIVIDUAL NAME TAGS WHICH WERE PLACED ON MARKERS SURROUNDING THE STATUE. THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THOSE PERSONS FROM BLUE EARTH AND NICOLLET COUNTIES WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES WHILE SERVING THEIR COUNTRY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA (VIETNAM).

ON NOVEMBER 11, 1988, AT ONE O'CLOCK, WE DEDICATE THE MEMORIAL WITH THIS SIMPLE LINE: "TO THOSE WHO SERVED AND THOSE WHO DIED." THIS MEMORIAL COULD NOT HAVE BEEN DONE WITHOUT THE HELP OF THE COMMUNITY. MAYBE WE ARE CLOSER TO BEING OUT OF THE STONE THAN WE THINK. THANK YOU.

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