By James M. Conn, Committee member, Veterans Memorial Park, Alexandria, MN

Dear Jan Duhnke and others who expressed concern about the Memorial Day speaker in Alexandria:

Thank you for taking the time to draft your thoughtful reply and express your concerns regarding the keynote address at the Alexandria Veterans Memorial Park. I know I can speak for each and every one of us veterans that we are grateful to you for supporting veterans. That honor stands stronger than ever in light of comments received from you and others regarding our keynote speaker.

I did not know the keynote speaker until shortly before the event so was unaware of the content of his speech until we heard it together. As a veteran, I lean conservative in my beliefs but tend to be more middle of the road than our devout, conservative Christian speaker on that Memorial Day. I try to seek truths based upon facts as opposed to verbal and pictorial emotional triggers that are used by extremists on both the left and the right. I still hope and believe that most of us are fabricated with the frame of mind that enables us to sift through facts and figures on which to base our perspectives rather than likes or shares. I for one do not use social media which tends to corrupt any rational factual basis for independent decision making.

You would not know this but back in 2020, prior to all of the COVID cancellations, we were planning the VMP grand opening on July 4, 2020 by asking our governor to be the keynote speaker and of course, you would probably guess correctly that his remarks would have included a more moderate middle tone. When things began to open up just prior to this Memorial Day 2021, we had to quickly cast about for a qualified patriotic speaker and were pleased to find and invite LTC (ret.) Jon Gackle to be our keynote speaker as programs were being planned and printed.

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One thing that I hope you will agree with me on is that Jon Gackle is a true patriot having dedicated 20 years of his life protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States. He used his free speech right to espouse ideals important to him in a public forum. Whereas I don’t agree with nor support some of the incendiary political triggers that you identified, I did spend four years of my life in the military protecting Jon’s inalienable right to free speech – as did Jon Gackle mine and yours.

By nature of taking time to write giving the VMP Committee your critical and balanced thoughts – you are also a true patriot and we will most assuredly consider your comments as we begin our planning for even bigger and better Memorial Day events in years to come.

The VMP is such a stunning city park to be enjoyed by all residents and visitors to this wonderful area of Minnesota and we wish for all to feel welcome no matter what their political beliefs might be!