If plans for a Carver County Veterans Memorial in Mayer eventually do materialize, it certainly won’t be the first such memorial in the County.
However, there’s a good chance it will be the biggest.
Stan Heldt, who is heading up a committee to pursue the construction of the memorial, along with his wife Sandy, said he can’t confirm the estimated $217,000, 40-foot by 11-foot structure would be the biggest veterans memorial in Carver County, but based on his tour of the other memorials in the county, he believes it would be.
More important than its projected size, though, would be the significance of the message it conveys. Heldt said the proposed memorial is intended to preserve the amazing and historic stories of veterans not just from Mayer, but from around the county.
“These are ordinary men walking among us who have witnessed monumental things,” Heldt said. “The stories need to be remembered. In my thinking, that’s a big reason for this monument.”
Heldt said the whole idea for the memorial actually started last summer, when he and Sandy, along with their son, Charlie, started talking about the idea of putting up a small memorial in Mayer. After they started driving around town looking for a good spot, though, one spot always stood apart from the rest.
“We always came back to the trailhead area,” Heldt said in reference to the Dakota Rail Regional Trailhead at the corner of Highway 25 and First Street in the city’s downtown area. “We said, that’s really the best place for it to be set and get the most exposure. Since that’s county property, we said that maybe instead of just a Mayer monument, we should be looking at a county monument.”
So, they organized a committee to get the process rolling. In addition to the Heldts, other members include Myron Taylor, Lowell Wasser, Norville Luebke and Doug Watson. City administrator Luayn Murphy and Carver County Parks Director Marty Walsh have also played a big role in the process.
Because the proposed memorial is on Carver County Regional Rail Authority property, the committee first had to gain approval from the Carver County Board of Commissioners, which was granted in September. Subsequently, the Mayer City Council granted its approval last month, though Heldt said that was largely a formality.
“The city of Mayer had given us a letter of support right away at the beginning,” he said. “We knew they were on board.”
Currently, the committee is in the process of trying to organize as a non-profit to gain tax-exempt status, a step that would help in the funding of the project. Most of the funding for the proposed project is expected to come from the sale of pavers that can be purchased to recognize veterans from throughout Carver County on the monument. Gifts, memorials, donations and grants will also fund the project. The memorial will recognize veterans from all branches of military service, and Heldt said it would be open to any veterans, even those who may not be from Carver County.
On the proposed monument, the paver for each veteran featured will include their photo and the story of their military service. Heldt said some of the fascinating stories he’s heard, just from the members of the local American Legion alone, were a major part of the inspiration for the memorial.
Heldt said one local Legion member was on the ship in Tokyo Bay watching the signing of the Peace Treaty at the end of World War II. He said another is pretty certain he drove the truck that delivered the atomic bomb to the plane during the same war. More recently, during the Iraq war, a local young embassy guard who had a day off in Iraq attended the trial of Saddam Hussein, Heldt said.
“We were starting to lose some of our World War II guys, so I said I’d start recording their stories,” Heldt said. “I was inspired by some of their stories. … Now, those stories will remembered. They’ll be put in the registry for anybody to go look at, and their story, long after they leave us, will still be here with us.”
Heldt said there is still is no timetable for when the memorial might be constructed or completed, and that obtaining tax exempt status is the next big obstacle. However, he said it would be important not to rush the project.
“We just know it’s going to take time,” he said. “As we’re doing it, we want to make sure we’re doing it correctly.”
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]