Any honorably discharged veteran, living or deceased, would have the opportunity to be honored by the American Legion Park Memorial in a redesign proposed by Le Sueur veterans.
On behalf of the Veterans Memorial Task Force, Navy Veteran and VFW Post 4297 Commander Shannon Frost presented a new memorial design to the Le Sueur City Council which aims to create a landmark inclusive of past, present and future veterans.
Blueprints drawn up by Bolton & Menk show the memorial relocated near the front entrance of American Legion Park on E. Ferry Street, west of the intersection with S. Park Lane. The current memorial panels are positioned in the center of a charcoal-colored concrete circle about 50 feet in diameter.
A major focus of the task force in the redesign was to shift the public’s perception of the memorial. In the current design, onlookers often face the side of the memorial showcasing the dedication of the center stone and the veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. By centering the memorial in a circle and engraving another dedication on the other side of the center stone, the task force hopes to encourage more people to view the stones displaying the names of the Civil War and Dakota War dead on the opposite side.
“One of the comments we heard about the original monument is people thought of it as the front side and the back side, whereas the people who designed it thought of it as one side or the other side,” said Frost. “We have plans to fix that all up.”
The four smaller panels would also be raised up on a stone facade engraved with outstretched hands appearing to lift the memorial up to position them on a more even level with the elongated center stone.
In the middle of the concrete circle, a lighter concrete ring surrounds the original memorial. Four new memorial stones, more than 5 feet tall, would be installed on the northwest, southwest, southeast and northeast corners of the ring. Any honorably discharged veteran could have their name engraved on the panels for an undetermined feed.
A fifth panel on the ring, facing out toward the entrance, will feature the names of major donors to the memorial.
Seeking to honor all veterans with more than just names, the task force designed the memorial to feature the flags of all six branches of the military — Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Space Force — in the landscape garden at the back of the memorial, behind a limestone wall. The names of each of the services would also be engraved on concrete bands stretching between the memorial ring and limestone wall.
Positioned in a landscape garden at the front of the memorial is the American flag while the Minnesota state flag and POW flag are located in gardens east and west of the concrete circle respectively. Lights shining from the ground would light up the sidewalk and the flags at night.
In total, the memorial would require $330,000, but not from the city. The task force plans to finance the project with a combination of grant dollars, in-kind donations and good old fashioned community fundraising. On an aggressive timeline, Frost estimated the memorial could be completed in two years.
The Veterans Memorial Task Force was organized April 11 with a mission to recommend a new design and location for the American Legion Park Memorial, as the city intends to bring new amenities, including trails, walkways and recreational facilities to the park.
Leading the task force is a group of local veterans spanning multiple generations, including Frost, Army veteran John May, retired Minnesota National Guard Colonel and District 20A Rep. Brian Pfarr, R-Le Sueur, former National Guard Assistant NCO Billy Schultz, American Legion Post 55 Commander Larry Bruender, Army veteran Tyler Sunderman, and Army veteran Shane Sinell.
“I can’t think of a better way to make a more inclusive memorial for our veterans than to add something for everybody who served our country,” said Mayor Shawn Kirby. “The existing memorial was a nice addition to the park in 1989, but I think you’re right; I think we’ve outgrown it a little bit. It would be nice to make it a little more centered for everybody to see better and a little more inclusive.”