Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Forks has received a number of sizable donations, including a quarter of a million dollars from the Engelstad Family Foundation and a dozen or so donations of $50,000 or more.
Perhaps a better way to gauge the importance of this new facility is in much smaller gestures. In a Herald report also published today, Tom Saddler, vice chairman of the Veterans Memorial Park Committee, tells the story of a man who opened his wallet and had a few dollars in it.
“He took it all out and said, ‘I want to contribute,’” Saddler recalled. “People gave what they wanted to give and could give.”
While the number of large donations is impressive, perhaps more touching is the number of donors who simply gave what they could to this impressive and worthy effort.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, Veterans Memorial Park will be dedicated, capping a yearslong effort that has seen the park become an appropriate shrine to the efforts of veterans dead and living. The event begins at 2 p.m. at the park, located near the roundabout at 24th Avenue and South 34th Street, just a bit north of Menards in south Grand Forks.
This is a story that began about a decade ago, when some veterans were visiting. One wondered why Grand Forks had no notable veterans memorial.
It didn’t take long to get the project going. In 2015, ground was broken; construction has been steady since then, aided by a massive fundraising effort.
Highlights include a visitor center, obelisks, park benches, flags, picnic shelters and a ship’s anchor. Last week, footings were poured to accommodate decommissioned aircraft that will be displayed there.
Especially notable is a black granite wall, 40 feet long, adorned with numerous images of local veterans, units and equipment, commemorating efforts made in U.S. wars and conflicts.
And even though the park has not yet been considered entirely finished, it already is an attraction.
Last week, as crews poured the footings for the decommissioned aircraft, a couple had lunch in the shade of a shelter just a few feet away. Shortly after the wall went up in 2020 -- even though sidewalks were not yet complete -- a Herald photo at the time showed a couple visiting the site.
Saddler said he rarely visits without seeing others enjoying its clean, wide-open space or its picnic shelters. Some visit just to see the wall, or to find the stone that bears the name of a loved one who served in the military. Nearly 1,200 stones have been sold as part of the fundraising campaign.
“There’s still work to be done, but it’s just beautiful,” Saddler said.
And it’s because of the work of those veterans who conceived the idea and the others who have worked diligently since then to push it to completion.
Grand Forks is the beneficiary of that hard work. The park truly is a sight, and the community should be proud of what it stands for, what it means for local veterans and its message to future generations.
Congratulations, boosters and backers of Veterans Memorial Park. Enjoy your dedication event Saturday, because you’ve certainly earned it.