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Local All Veterans Memorial inspires neighboring state

The Veterans Memorial Plaza in Dubuque, Iowa, above, was inspired by the Park Rapids All Veterans Memorial. (Submitted photo)

If Park Rapids can do it, so can we! That was our rallying cry from the beginning of the Dubuque (Iowa) Veterans Memorial Plaza.

Today, on Veterans Day, 2009 at 2 p.m., just off of Highway 61 in Dubuque, on Chaplin Schmitt Island, we will cut the ribbon on the first phase of this project, inspired by your community's efforts to recognize its veterans and honor our country.

While there may be some passionate rivalry between Iowa and Minnesota on occasion, this time the passion is filled with gratitude for your vision and a thanks for the support your community has given your project that in turn has touched so many of your neighbors to the south without knowing it. As in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, you just never know whose life you will touch or inspire with your actions.

The president of the committee to build the Dubuque memorial, Louis Kartman, a Korean War Veteran, for more than 40 summers fished in the Park Rapids area. My father, J. Conrad Kohlmann, a World War II Veteran and also a Dubuque resident along with our family also fished in the Park Rapids area (3rd Crow Wing) for the same amount of time.

We visited the memorial in your community along Highway 71 and he had agreed with Kartman, that Dubuque, a city of nearly 60,000 along the Mississippi River should be able to support a similar undertaking. Kartman began garnering support for the Iowa project in late 2006, gaining momentum and receiving enthusiasm and support from local veterans organizations.

My father unexpectedly passed away in February of 2007. However, our family had asked that half of his memorial money be given to the proposed monument. I stopped by a committee meeting of the veterans memorial to drop off donations that had been given to the project and was asked to be secretary of the group, to pick up my fathers flag in military terms, and carry it though what may be our 'battle' to get the memorial completed. Ground was broken on Aug. 15, of 2007.

We used your memorial as a blue print for what to build. The monument has a curved wall decided to the branches of service, bracketing an American flag. In the center there is a six ton granite globe, five feet in diameter. It is sitting on a field of pavers, each sold to raise money for the project.

It is nearly $600,000 in donations later, three quarters coming from private donations, 900 pavers that were sold for veterans and many hours of donated time and labor that we come to this Veterans Day. It will be a special day for many when we cut the ribbon and hear from our congressman and local politicians.

For Louie and myself, we may look at the memorial, and imagine the aroma of coffee on a chilly August morning in a cabin before fishing on the lake, listening to Ed De La Hunt on KPRM, see steam rise from the lake and the 'big one' jump knowing where the inspiration for the memorial came from, and that we can enjoy all of those freedoms Minnesota offers because of these veterans we honor.