Veterans' memorial plans taking shape
Several years ago, when the Becker County Board of Commissioners began discussing plans for a courthouse expansion, the commissioners approached area veterans' organizations to see how they would feel about relocating the veterans' memorial park to a new site.
A meeting was called to discuss the possibility of establishing a new veterans' park at another location. It was anticipated that a large portion of the courthouse lawn -- where the memorial park was located at that time -- would be taken up by the expansion.
"I was at that meeting," said Don Schattschneider, a Korean War veteran and life member of the Detroit Lakes American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans organizations.
As it happened, Schattschneider had recently engaged in a conversation with Tom Swenson of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, who was involved in designing the Highway 10 realignment project.
Part of that conversation, Schattschneider said, included the possibility of adding a county veterans' memorial to the design plans. When Schattschneider mentioned the possibility at the county meeting, it was met with favor from those in attendance.
A letter was subsequently submitted from American Legion Post 15, Detroit Lakes, to MnDOT, asking that the Legion be included in planning meetings for the realignment project.
"We were included in several meetings," Schattschneider said.
Initially, the possibility was discussed that a memorial might be included in plans for the new lakeside overlook, "but as it turned out, (the site) was far too small."
Brad Green, Detroit Lakes' public works director, suggested that "there might be opportunities available" for including a veterans' park in plans for the new Gateway district.
"As it turned out, there was (an opportunity there)," Schattschneider said.
Veterans' organizations from all over Becker County attended the Detroit Lakes City Council meeting that was held to discuss their formal request for the inclusion of space for a veterans' memorial in the renovation plans.
"The council approved providing space for a proper memorial site," Schattschneider said.
Current plans call for the memorial to be located on the south side of the new Highway 10, between the old Macs building and Floral Impressions building.
After the city made a commitment to providing a home for the veterans' memorial project, a steering committee was formed, including Schattschneider and fellow veterans Dave Coalwell, George Peters, Harland Thompson and Doug Koenig.
Becker County Veterans' Service Officer Lauri Brooke also became involved in the discussions, he added.
Ness Granite Works made a commitment to provide the materials and assist in the design of the memorial.
The committee members then began traveling around the state to view and take pictures of various memorial projects, to get an idea of what they wanted.
Eventually, a design was drawn up and approved by the veterans' organizations, which made a commitment to raise the necessary funds.
"There is no formal organization -- we're just a bunch of veterans working together to accomplish a goal," Schattschneider said. As for his involvement, he said, "I happened to be in the right spot at the right time."
The fund-raising project was given a jump start when the DL Legion contributed $10,000 to purchase seven flagpoles -- flags from all five branches of the Armed Forces will be flown alongside the United States and American POW flags.
The family of the late Ralph Elrod also donated $1,000 to the DL Legion, which the organization decided to dedicate to the memorial fund.
An additional $3,500 has been raised through the sale of granite "paver" stones, which will be engraved with the names of deceased and living veterans, "and others who support our veterans (businesses, individuals and organizations). "
The pavers will line the sides of a handicap-accessible walkway leading to the monument from the parking lot, to be located on its south side.
The pavers are being sold in three sizes: 4x8, 8x8 and 8x16 inches, at a cost of $90, $150 and $275, respectively.
Schattschneider said there will be a small booth set up in Oak Grove Cemetery during the Memorial Day services on Monday, May 25, for those who would like to learn more about the project, or purchase a paver stone.
Those unable to attend can also contact the Becker County Veterans' Service Office, 218-846-7312; Harland Thompson, 850-4883 or 847-3749; Don Schattschneider, 847-5255; George Peters, 847-2008; Dave Coalwell, 234-7689; and Kitti Kivi-Lex, 849-1028, 847-4418 or 346-1326.