July 19, 2019

Veterans memorial erected on SD-34 in Colman - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Veterans memorial erected on SD-34 in Colman

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Posted: Friday, June 28, 2019 3:58 pm

The community project started with a question posed during one of those casual conversations that arise when folks meet in a public place. Why can't we have a memorial?

"There's been a nationwide movement to recognize veterans for their service," Roger Fritz explained.

Fritz, a retired school superintendent and commander of American Legion Post 278 in Colman, isn't sure why this groundswell of patriotism is sweeping the country.

Perhaps, it's because the United States is currently engaged in the longest war in the nation's history, a war that started in October 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Few families remain untouched, especially in South Dakota, where one in 10 residents is a veteran.

Perhaps, it's because Vietnam-era veterans are getting older and are shedding the stigma of serving -- many because they were drafted -- in that unpopular war.

"They weren't given a welcome home," said Fritz, who retired after serving for 32 years, first in the U.S. Army and then in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Regardless, communities across the nation are constructing memorials, and Colman has joined that number. The project was spearheaded by the American Legion, but other community members have been involved.

Located along SD-34 on the east edge of town south of the Colman Lutheran Church, which donated the land, the memorial is nearing completion and will be dedicated later this year.

Six slabs of quartzite from Jasper, Minn., stand on a base of tinted concrete shaped like a pentagon.

"The pentagon has some significance to the military," Fritz said, acknowledging the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense is The Pentagon.

Five slabs bear the medallion of a branch of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The sixth carries an inscription: "Honoring area veterans for their service to our country in times of war and peace so we can enjoy the freedoms we so deeply treasure."

An eagle, the symbol of the nation chosen by the Founding Fathers, raises its wings for flight on the west side of the memorial. A flag pole stands at the center, and the area is guarded on the east by two statues of soldiers in combat uniform.

"We chose right now to have a male and female. If we have additional interest, we'll keep adding to it," Fritz said.

However, before additions are made to the memorial, work that has been planned must be completed. The current design was chosen after much consideration.

Fritz said he photographed memorials in 10 or 15 different communities, and the committee that has been guiding the project met with two memorial companies before making a final decision. Fund-raising efforts were kicked off last year.

Since that time, more than 260 pavers were sold for $100 each. In addition, businesses and individuals have made generous donations, according to Fritz.

"People from all over the country got word that we were going to do this and responded very well," he said.

One of the statues was donated by Great Western Bank. The other was donated by the Moody County 4-H, which will also be landscaping the area around the memorial.

Fund-raising for the project continues. Fritz said the goal is to raise between $40,000 and $50,000, including in-kind services, adding that organizers have nearly reached that goal.

Even though work has not been completed, the memorial is already drawing the attention of passersby, Fritz said.

"A lot of people stop by and walk through it," he observed.

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