One of the special features – and there will be many – of the Veterans Memorial Park that is under construction in downtown Alexandria promises to be the granite monoliths bearing the names of veterans, living and dead, with connections to this area.
Already more than 7,000 veterans names have been submitted, along with their years of military service and branch of service. And the list continues to grow.
"We think we're going to accumulate about 7,500 names," said committee member Jim Conn, an Alexandria native who served in the United States Air Force from 1962-66.
Veterans who served in what is deemed the Early War Era – the American Civil War of 1861-65 and the Spanish-American War from 1898-1903 – and the Global War Era – World War I from 1917-18 and World War II from 1941-46 – had a deadline of Sept. 30 to make it on the stones for the engraving to begin this month.
Time is running out for two other groups of veterans to have their names added to the alphabetized lists in time for the park's dedication, slated for July 4, 2020.
"We're going to close the rolls on what we're calling the Cold War Era," Conn said, noting that 40-year period includes a lot of veterans. "We've got to start engraving those names, too, in order to be ready for the dedication."
The Cold War Era includes the: Korean Conflict (1950-55); Vietnam War (1961-75); Lebanon (1982-83); Grenada (1983); and Panama (1989-90). The deadline for veterans and their families to submit their naming requests for this group is Dec. 31.
A deadline for the names of veterans serving during the Gulf War Era – the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 and the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts from 2001 to the present day – is also approaching. Dec. 31 will serve as a soft deadline, Conn said, with a firm one just around the corner in 2020.
A donation of $100 is requested for each name that will be engraved on the monoliths.
Those who miss the deadlines are not left out, however. Those veterans' names won't be part of the ones listed in alphabetical order, however they still can be included on additional monoliths that will created at a later date.
"That goes back to our motto, let no veteran be forgotten," Conn said. "We're accumulating names now. We'll still do that and add them at a later date."
The park will be a continual monument to veterans, rather than one reflective of the day it opens. "We want to maintain this for a long time to come," he said.
Conn estimates there will be approximately 25 monoliths with 150 names on each side. They will stand six feet high, and measure 42 inches wide and eight inches thick.
A special monolith is being reserved for a fifth group of veterans, dubbed Special Combatants, who have received these designations: killed in action; missing in action; Medal of Honor recipient; or prisoner of war.
The park's website contains a running list of veterans names from the various eras that are slated to appear on the monoliths. Those lists are updated periodically by volunteers, and new names may not be added immediately.
To submit the name of a veteran and make a $100 donation, go to alexveteranspark.org/honor-a-veteran. Those who are unable to make the donation are asked to email email@example.com or call 320-460-8303.
Last month, several veterans gathered at Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union, where they were given a second donation of $1,000 as gifts from the credit union's philanthropic arm. It is gifts of this size, along with the larger donations, that have the park committee closing in on its fundraising goal.
"We need those small donors," said Conn. "As far as the overall fundraising effort, our recent financial statement shows that we have raised over $1,100,000." From what he said, that figure represents approximately 90 percent of their goal.
In addition to the veterans names, the park will also have a place to display the names of the large donors. Those giving in excess of $5,000 will be honored permanently on a plaque on the Community Donor Wall of Honor. Those donors will be grouped in a five-star format, Conn said, with one star representing gifts of between $5,000-$10,000; two stars from $10,000-$25,000; three stars from $25,000-$50,000; four stars from $50,000-$100,000; and five stars of $100,000 and greater.
Douglas Machine, Inc. and J. A. Wedum Foundation are the only five-star donors, and until this past week, Alexandria Industries and Constellation Lodge #81 Freemasons of Alexandria and Minnesota were the lone four-star donors. Alex Concrete Company/JME Companies joined that group by donating concrete, an offer so generous that Conn called it "an amazing gift."
The star donors account for somewhere around two-thirds of the donations thus far, he said. Donations are tax-deductible, since the park is a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity, and can be made at alexveteranspark.org, or mailed to: Veterans Memorial Park, PO Box 733, Alexandria, MN 56308.
"The bottom line is we’re not yet done fundraising," Conn said, "but we're blessed with a community that continues to be incredibly supportive as reflected in gifts and donations coming in through our website and in the mail on a daily basis."