Crow Wing County Board: Group plans updates to veterans memorial

Plans to update the All Veterans Memorial next to the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse call for it to double in size and honor veterans from more conflicts.

Plans to update the All Veterans Memorial next to the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse call for it to double in size and honor veterans from more conflicts.

Nancy Cross, executive director of Brainerd Community Action, discussed the proposed updates with the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday. Cross is part of a committee planning the memorial construction.

Included in the plans are adding granite slabs honoring the Cold War, Persian Gulf War and the war on terrorism. The other side of the addition would recognize the ideals of freedom, peace, sacrifice and patriotism. The central slabs would contain photos-one of an eagle, and another of firefighters raising the American flag above the rubble following the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The second five-panel monument would mirror the one currently situated on Laurel Street in Brainerd. The updates are expected to cost $100,000 and will be 100 percent funded through donations, Cross said, 80 percent of which are already collected.

"The whole purpose of mirroring this is to bring a feeling of peace and a place for reflection," Cross said. "As you walk into this location, you have a peaceful serenity, if you will."


Cross said the purpose of including the Sept. 11 flag raising photograph is to remind people of all who serve.

"There's more who serve. There are police officers, there are firefighters, there are EMS (emergency medical services personnel)," Cross said. "(We're) hoping that we can instill upon the citizenry that we all serve in some way, and that's our duty."

Commissioner Paul Thiede asked Cross about the rationale behind the placement of the new slabs in front of the current monument, which he said seemed to block it from the street view.

"As a veteran, I don't want any of my words to be construed against the memorial," Thiede said. "It almost seems to me like those panels should be rotated, so that you're not blocking (them) out, which there's a lot of people blocking out our past history the way it is."

"We want people to come in," Cross said. "We want them to feel welcome and to come into that area to reflect on all who have served in all of those conflicts."

Thiede suggested rotating the memorial 90 degrees would make it open to the street on both sides.

"Moving the current stones would be astronomically expensive," Cross said.

Thiede also questioned why the 9/11 flag raising was selected instead of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima from WWII.


"I don't want to denigrate the service of firemen and policemen and that, but this is a veterans memorial," Thiede said. "And I've got to believe there was some question of the iconic Iwo Jima flag raising."

Cross said the purpose of selecting that image was to include a flag.

"That has not been totally decided, as to what etching would be put on that center stone," she said.

Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said she's been to several gatherings at the memorial and asked if there would still be room for crowds. Cross said the memorial would be surrounded by sidewalks and would be open all the way through.

Cross said the committee would consider the suggestions of the commissioners, and the decision process has evolved in the months of discussion about the updates.

"It's not something that you make a decision on today and throw on a stone tomorrow," Cross said.

Commissioner Paul Koering said his reading of the request for board action was the committee was asking for permission to update the memorial. Commissioners were not the ones deciding what it would look like, he said. Koering made a motion to approve the request.

Nystrom asked whether his motion included the committee bringing the final plans back to the county board for review. Koering said this was not part of his motion.


"I would prefer us to see when we have a final proposal," Nystrom said. "The concept, I think, we all agree with, but there are still some moving pieces that we don't know what it's going to look like."

Cross asked whether commissioners were suggesting one of them would like to serve on the committee. Koering said that was not his intention and he withdrew his motion after Nystrom suggested an amendment to require the committee return with final plans.

Nystrom made another motion including her amendment. Thiede said he agreed with Nystrom on a review of the plans.

"I don't believe that's in any way, shape or form trying to influence what the committee has done, what the committee is doing," Thiede said. "But I think there's room for ideas such as we had. I think this is a county memorial, and I think we as the county board ought to have some review of that before it's actually there."

Cross asked for clarification on whether this meant the board could change the final plans.

Thiede said he wanted to know whether any of their suggestions were feasible.

"I do also want to mention to you that this is not a design that we as laypersons have come up with," Cross said. "This was done by an architect."

Nystrom asked Thiede whether he was interested in sitting on the committee, since he had "obviously a lot of ideas."


Thiede said he might go to a meeting as a veteran, but not as a representative of the county board.

"If I come to your committee, I'm going to represent me," Thiede said.

Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said she would have voted for Koering's motion and she will also vote for Nystrom's motion.

"I want this to go forward," Franzen said. "I have total trust in this committee that they are going to put the best thing out there."

The board unanimously passed a motion giving permission for the committee to move forward with the request for final plans to come before the county board.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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