Remembering America#039;s War Heroes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 28, 2002

It was 10 years ago, when the Mower County Veterans Memorial was dedicated.

Each day since, both patriotic holidays and every day in between, it has been a constant reminder of the price of war.

"I see it every day," said William D. Fuller, a U.S. Army veteran from the Vietnam Conflict. "In fact, sometimes I go out of my way just to see it."

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"It was a lot of long, hard work to get a memorial to the county's veterans, but we succeeded," Fuller said.

"I think the location is just great," he said. "There's historical significance to that location. That's where World War II veterans went, when the draft board announced whose numbers were being called up for military duty."

Appropriately enough, the memorial's dedication came on Veterans Day, November 11, 1992.

"We commemorate those who gave their lives so that we may live in freedom," solemnized the hosts before the names on the memorial wall were read aloud.

Today, the names, literally from "A" for Ames, Hartland, a casualty of the American Civil War, to "W" for Wheeler, Whitney, Wilcox and many others, form an almost complete alphabet of human oblation.

There are 42 American Civil War veterans' names etched on the wall; as well as five Spanish American War veterans, 64 World War I vets, 160 from World War II, 25 Korean War vets and 30 Vietnam War veterans.

Since the dedication, the Mower County Veterans Memorial has become a focal point of private and public remembrances of the sacrifices made by veterans.

Families visit the memorial at the intersection of North Main Street and Second Avenue in downtown Austin. They make rubbings of names on paper for keepsakes or trace the letters of a loved one's name on the wall, touching and being touched by a memory.

The memorial is also the meeting place for veterans organizations on patriotic holidays, where flag raising, speeches and 21 gun salutes are commonplace.

In between the private and public displays of patriotism and mourning, the memorial silence is a golden reminder of the ultimate sacrifice solders make in every war.

Duane Hanson, then a Mower County Board member, was instrumental in seeing the project reach completion and success.

"I'm just thankful we have it there for everyone to see," Hanson said.. "I just hope people appreciate it."

"It's a place where everybody can see the names of those people from Mower County who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America," Hanson said. "We can't forget them."

Jeffrey Anderson designed the Mower County Veterans Memorial.

When the Anderson Memorials – Austin creative force looks at the site, he sees two things: an ideal site and a "work in progress," so fastidious about his work is he.

"It really is a wonderful site for a memorial like that, but it's incomplete," Anderson said

"The sculpture of the wounded soldier and his comrade helping him isn't there."

When the memorial was completed and dedicated, plans called for a life-size sculpture of wounded veterans.

Organizers, weary from a lengthy fund drive for the original memorial, valiantly attempted to raise funds two years ago, but the project stalled.

Now, Anderson said the time is right to finish the Mower County Veterans Memorial project once and for all.

He is promoting a paved project," which would include a pathway with the names of living veterans carved in stone leading to the additional sculpture piece.

Anderson has designed veterans memorials in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois; 35 in the last 15 to 20 years.

"Veterans memorials are always a real challenge for a variety of reasons," Anderson said. "They usually follow a lengthy process of fund-raising and site selection as well as design selection."

"Very often, the key element is the location, because memorials of this kind are very site sensitive," he said.

"Also, there is the design. It can be very simple or very elaborate."

Since 1996, Anderson has been working on a veterans memorial for Soldiers Field at Rochester. The project has gained Anderson national attention for his work.

Despite the attention and accolades for the Soldiers Field project, Anderson emphatically says every project is special.

"The memorials we do are each unique unto themselves," he said. "Recent memorials are more participatory or interactive than others. They are participatory from the standpoint of the viewer and what they see, what message they receive."

He credits WWII veterans with ensuring veterans memorials leave a lasting impression in the minds of those who see them.

"Through the efforts of mainly World War II veterans, they are making sure that the message is getting conveyed to all generations," Anderson said, "With more than 1,200 World War II veterans dying each day, these veterans have taken it upon themselves to guarantee that the history the memorials represent will not go ignored."

Vietnam War veteran Fuller said the Mower County Veterans Memorial offers subliminal benefits, too.

"I think it offers families peace of mind and a sense of unity to see all those names on the wall," he said.

"After the tragedy of September 11 last year, people left notes at the wall and flowers. It was a place they went to in order to start the healing process," Fuller said.

The need to heal and find peace of mind spans generations as does the realization that freedom comes at a price. Veteran Stanley Gronseth of Hayfield, shared his thoughts of Memorial Day in 1985.

"The price of freedom has been high throughout all wars," he said.

On Memorial Day 2002, that price adds up to 326 names on a street corner in downtown Austin.

In Mower County, like all other places, where sons and daughters go off to war, loved ones still count war's awful toll.

For purposes of this story, the total number of names on the Mower County Veterans Memorial Wall is the original 326 tally. More names have been added since 1992. Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at