American Legion member Bob Haufschild donates the services of his backhoe to deliver topsoil to the new Arlington Veterans Memorial Aug. 2, as fellow Legion members prepare to spread it throughout the park. The Legion plans for the park to be completed by Veterans Day, with a dedication service to be held Memorial Day 2013. Photo by Charis Prunty/Register
• American Legion has brainstormed and raised funds, now putting in the sweat equity
BROOKINGS – Last fall, a stately new flagpole arrived for the Arlington veterans’ memorial. It was a gift solicited from a local bank because the existing pole was looking kind of rough. But the new pole quickly outshone the brick memorial wall that stood next to it and began to spark an idea in the minds of Arlington American Legion members.
“What started it all off was when the CorTrust Bank gave us this flagpole last year,” said Don Cain, Legion officer, as he stood at the memorial park Thursday. “We put that up, and all of a sudden we got all excited about going into this future project.”
A new memorial is already taking shape at the intersection of Birch Street and highways 14 and 81 in Arlington – the same site as the previous memorial. That brick structure, erected in 1987, has been permanently removed. Legion members who put it up were not opposed to the change, said Gary Madsen, commander of American Legion Post 42.
Madsen, Cain and Legion member Richard Christiansen have been primary organizers of the project, but work has been done by all of Post 42. Local residents have already chipped in to help with construction and many have contributed money. The City of Arlington has donated man-hours and use of heavy equipment, adding electricity and a water supply to the area and extending the bank a little farther over Lake Arlington.
Lake Arlington provides a scenic backdrop for the new memorial, which was initially designed by Madsen. Eight more permanent American flags will join the one already standing there, and the Avenue of Flags will continue to fill the area during holidays with about 150 more flags.
Grass and other plants will maintain a natural feel in a series of berms incorporated into the new memorial, which is a triangular shape with its tip adjacent to Highway 14.
Concrete walkways running the length of the park on either side, and between the berms, have already been completed by Bunker Construction of Arlington.
Eight life-size, glossy statues representing each military branch and several U.S. wars will be stationed throughout the memorial, made by The Statuary of Sioux Falls. The memorial is already on a waiting list to receive a piece of retired military equipment, which will be stationed at the end of the park, on the newly-extended shoreline.
Four large granite tablets, the main one standing eight feet tall, will hold the names of more than 1,000 veterans who are in some way associated with Arlington. Those killed in action will be honored as well, listed with the date and country in which they died. The Legion will leave room for more names to be added in the future.
Their purpose, said Madsen and Cain, is purely to honor local veterans.
“It’s not Legion, it’s not VFW, it’s veterans,” Madsen said. “That picks up a lot of veterans that don’t qualify for American Legion, because the dates imposed where there was no conflict.”
“Like Vietnam was just a certain window,” Cain added. “Well, we have a lot of members that were in maybe a year or two before Vietnam and they didn’t fit in the Korea tablets for the Legion, so that way they could be a part of this. An awful lot of names came on board that way.”
As of Thursday, work on the memorial was about half complete. Legion members hope to have most eveything complete by Veterans Day. To allow the grass and plants time to grow, a formal dedication will be hosted on Memorial Day 2013.
A bare-bones version of the memorial is expected to cost $110,000-$120,000, Madsen said in a letter to the Brookings County Commission last month. Lights, irrigation and landscaping will be added as more funds come in. As of July 10 the Legion had raised $102,000; the commission added $1,500 on July 24.
Organizers ask that anyone who would like to contribute to the project, or to ask that a veteran’s name be included on the memorial, contact Madsen at 605-983-5110.
Contact Charis Prunty at email@example.com.