A group of local leaders and constituents is moving forward with plans to build a Veterans Memorial Wall near the Brainerd Lakes Chamber’s Welcome Center on Highway 371 that will honor all veterans, living or deceased.
State Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, constituent Earl Johnson, Crow Wing County Veterans Service Officer Bob Nelson, and Brainerd Lakes Chamber President/CEO Lisa Paxton held meetings with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and received preliminary approval to proceed with a proposal for the project.
The project was inspired by Johnson, whose son, a military servicemember, passed away last year. Johnson attended a memorial service in Great Falls, Mont., and was so impressed with their veterans memorial that he began approaching local community leaders about building a similar memorial in the Brainerd lakes area.
“I approached Rep. Ward, Bob and Lisa, and we started this process more than a year ago,” said Johnson. “I’m so fortunate to be working with these incredible people. While the idea might have come from me, they have been the ones making it happen, and I’m so appreciative for all their hard work.”
Highway 371 was designated as the Purple Heart Highway in 2006 and Camp Ripley is located near the proposed site. Brainerd is also the geographic center of Minnesota, making the area an excellent location for a Veterans Memorial.
“While the project still has a long way to go, this is great news for our veterans and our area,” said Ward. “It’s exciting that this is moving forward and I’ll continue doing all that I can to make it a reality.”
“The Brainerd Lakes Chamber is pleased to help facilitate the conversation with MnDOT and help evaluate options,” added Paxton. “This is such a worthwhile endeavor to honor our veterans and we’re thrilled about the possibility of building a memorial and interpretive site in the Brainerd lakes area.”
“We owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to our veterans and this proposed memorial is just one way for us to show our appreciation and respect for them,” said Nelson. “The brave men and women who have served our state and nation deserve this honor and recognition.
The next step involves forming an organizational structure to move the vision forward. A committee needs to be created to lead the development of the proposal, fundraising, and organizational structure. To fit in with the mission of MnDOT and to utilize this site it must be interpretive in nature. The memorial could also include the rich history of Minnesota’s contribution to military history, and complement the interpretive offerings at Camp Ripley.
Money will also have to be raised to pay for the creation of the memorial, maintenance, and future planning. Area residents interested in participating with planning or in donating should contact Nelson at 218-824-1061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.