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Echo Press Editorial: Veterans memorial is long overdue

The Veterans Memorial in Long Prairie includes an Army medical helicopter, murals, a tank, benches and a giant wall depicting the Battle for Iwo Jima. (Contributed)

Kensington, population 301, just dedicated a Veterans Memorial Park.

Osakis, home to 1,743 residents, Long Prairie with a population of 3,497, and Elbow Lake, population 1,132, all have beautiful park areas set aside with flags, benches and stone markers honoring those who have served their country.

Alexandria has a population of 13,182 but zero parks dedicated to veterans.

That's not right.

Fortunately, a group of local veterans are trying to change that and they're rallying veterans young and old to their cause, from World War II survivors to those seeing military action overseas right now.

Last month, the Alexandria VFW Post 936 voted unanimously to form a committee to pursue the possibility of building a veterans memorial. Committee Chair Gabe Pipo told the Alexandria City Council at its June 26 meeting that the project is long overdue.

They've got a lot of people in their camp. Alexandria is home to four active veterans' organizations — the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Marine Corps League, and all of them have auxiliary units. The group estimates that there are more than 3,000 veterans living in the county and a few hundred who are active in the military at this time.

Pipo pointed out that there seems to be a disconnect between the older veterans and the younger ones. The younger vets are not getting involved as much in veteran organizations and the community should be doing more to show their support as well.

"Alexandria welcomed these veterans home very graciously, but then we have done little follow-up," Pipo said. "Some of these (younger) veterans have served up to three and four tours of duty in harm's way while their families sacrificed back here at home. We have to be telling them that their sacrifice has not been forgotten and will not be forgotten."

One of the committee's top goals reflects that objective: Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.

Residents will be hearing more about this effort in the coming months. The effort is still in its preliminary stages and several details have to be worked out — a potential site, funding, maintenance and more.

We hope the whole community rallies behind the effort by showing its support when the fundraising begins and the deeper stages of planning gets under way.

This is an exciting concept for our area. It's a way to honor our local veterans. It can help create another focal point in our community instead of a giant fiberglass statue (sorry, Big Ole). It can show visitors that our area recognizes the costly price of freedom. It can be a spot for those who have lived through the ravages of war to gather, reflect and heal.

Lastly, the effort itself can draw all veterans together in another common cause, creating new connections between the generations of those who have given so much for their country.

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Echo Press editorials represent the opinion of the Echo Press Editorial Board, which includes Jeff Beach, Editor; Jody Hanson, Publisher; and Al Edenloff, News/Opinion Editor.

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