A Brief History of the All Veterans Memorial
The All Veterans Memorial in Hubbard County began with the dream of Mike Lester (US Army/USAF), Commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 38 of Park Rapids, MN, to have a beautiful Veterans Memorial in the vicinity of Park Rapids for local veterans, their families, and visitors to honor and appreciate our local military history. Mike Lester discussed his idea with another DAV member and the Hubbard County Service Officer who agreed it was long overdue, and highly encouraged the DAV members to begin such an undertaking.
Lester then took his idea to a DAV meeting, with members agreeing to move forward. Recognizing the enormity of their vision, the DAV asked all local service organizations to have two members each along with two auxiliary members to join them. The first official All Veterans Memorial in Hubbard County committee meeting was held at the Park Rapids American Legion in the fall of 1990 with a combined twelve members present. Unsure of how to proceed to create their vision, it took a few meetings to get started. Lester worked diligently to create a plan, knowing he did not want “just a garbage can full of cement with a flag stuck in it”. He envisioned a lasting monument for future generations to experience.
By spring 1991, things were falling into place, and a contest was held to find a suitable design for the memorial. It was open to anyone in the area who wanted to submit a plan, adults and students alike, with the deadline being June 1st. Nine entries were received, and contestants were invited to the June committee meeting to explain their submissions before voting. The winning submission was by Park Rapids Area High School junior student Matthew Kari, Jr. A local architect offered his services at a reduced rate, and was graciously accepted.
Then the difficult work began: HOW WHEN WHERE.
Local service organizations provided seed money. Along with monthly committee meetings, members met over coffee, lunch, or at the architect’s office to discuss their idea and ongoing updates. Trips to the Twin Cities were made to meet with professional fund raisers, interviews were had with local citizens experienced with fund raising, meals were served, radio-a-thons were held, shirts and hats were sold, and a Veterans Memorial phone line was established.
All committee members were on alert for local vacant land. Areas in every direction around Park Rapids within budget were sought. A model for the future memorial was displayed at area banks and service clubs. Committee members used every chance they had to explain plans at local gatherings and programs. They knew they had a monumental undertaking before them, and were fully committed to make it become reality.
1997 would prove to be an epic year in moving the memorial within reach of a ground breaking. Early in the year, committee members made numerous trips to St. Paul seeking assistance. They were well received by state legislative members and the Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Commissioner, along with other executive members in travel and tourism. A bill for a $100,000 grant, with matching funds from the All Veterans Memorial in Hubbard County, was introduced and passed by the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate, and signed by Minnesota Governor Arne H. Carlson.
With the task at hand for the committee to raise $100,000 in matching funds, about $10,000 increase of that goal was achieved each year. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 brought renewed patriotism nationwide, and by April 2002 our goal in full was achieved. On June 5th, 2002 a check was received from the State of Minnesota, and ground breaking for the monument commenced a few weeks later on June 27th.
October 11, 2002 brought heavy equipment operations to the memorial site. A group of veterans arrived on October 24th with the solemn task of giving the memorial grounds a “heart”. As the first concrete was poured, a Purple Heart Medal wrapped in two American flags was then sealed in an air tight container and was slid into the footings, forever to be kept safe under the concrete.
On August 16th, 2003, after a rousing keynote address delivered by Major General Doyle E. Larson, USAF, a ribbon was cut by Amy Runnoe and Glenys Hotzler, two senior members of the All Veterans Memorial in Hubbard County committee. Colors were at long last paraded onto the field by joint veterans organizations, and then hoisted, officially opening the memorial grounds to the public.
With the concept for a “Walk of Honor” beginning in 1998, Memorial stones were finally made available as a way to honor the service and sacrifice of our loved ones for our country. They are placed along the walking path around the museum building and monument grounds, and are continuously added to throughout the year (weather permitting).
The All Veteran’s Memorial in Hubbard County building was officially opened to the public on September 11, 2017. It displays military artifacts (both foreign and domestic), “Veterans Voices” – audio and visual recordings of our local veterans’ memories and experiences in the military, books, photo albums, flags, newspapers, etc.
Over the years the All Veterans Memorial in Hubbard County has had more than fifty committee members, ever rotating with new people and new ideas to ensure the grounds and museum building are physically and historically kept up to date.
We hope that you will find the All Veteran’s Memorial to be a project worthy of your support.