How many Grand Forks residents have served their country? Imagine if they could all be lined up for a portrait, some massive photo that could be preserved for decades, perhaps centuries. It could hang in a central place somewhere in Grand Forks, where residents could see the faces of the men and women who made great personal sacrifices – of time, effort and, in some cases, their lives – for the sake of freedom.

That impossible photograph only lives in a hypothetical world. But there is still a way to commemorate the efforts of those who have given so much for others.

In Grand Forks, a new park is rising near the roundabout north of Columbia Mall. Veterans Memorial Park, in the works for years, is nearing completion. Earlier this month, the Herald noted the most recent developments at the park, including the addition of granite panels – part of a 40-foot-wide wall – and five 25-foot-tall obelisks, each of which are dedicated to a military branch.

The idea for the park came a decade ago as a couple of local veterans spoke of what was then the city’s only veterans memorial. At the time, it was simply a stone under a tree at the Grand Forks County Courthouse.

One of those veterans replied: “Don’t you think the veterans deserve better?”

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And thus began Veterans Memorial Park, which is now in its final stages of construction and which will be dedicated next summer.

As the notable pieces of the park come into position and provide a glimpse of what it will be when finished, the park’s backers also are working on smaller, yet we believe equally important, pieces to complete the project.

Among them: 8-inch by 12-inch granite stones that will be included at the park to commemorate the service of veterans from Grand Forks and elsewhere. The stones are for sale, at $200 apiece, and will include brief biographical information about the honorees.

So far, nearly 700 blocks have been sold for what is being called the “Walk of Honor,” although organizers of the project hope to sell upwards of 1,000. The veterans’ faces won’t be included – it simply wouldn’t be feasible, considering the great mass of the project – but their names in granite will be the next best thing.

And with a bit of imagination, it won’t be hard to picture these heroes in our minds when we see the completed project. Imagine, for example, the impact of 1,000 names of veterans chiseled in granite as groups of school children quietly pass by.

Anyone who hasn’t yet commemorated their own favorite veteran should consider reaching out to the Veterans Memorial Park organizers to purchase a stone. More information can be found at www.gfvetspark.org or by calling 218-791-1449.