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Sioux Falls-based Stone Group Architects works on project to archive stories of veterans and their memorials

Individuals who have stories or photos of veterans or memorials to share can do so with the company.

Veteran memorial - Pierre, S.D.
A statue of a soldier, as part of a memorial honoring World War II veterans, is seen covered with frost in this image in Pierre, S.D.
Image: Courtesy of Cindy Bahe, Stone Group Architects
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Stone Group Architects, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is working on a project to draw attention to the country’s veteran memorials.

So far, it has collected a number of images and stories about memorials, some close to home and others hundreds, even thousands of miles away.

The effort continues to grow as it seeks participation from the public and, once complete, will stand unique among other collections. As far as he knows, Todd Stone, founder and co-owner of the architecture firm, does not know of another such collection by another company or organization.

“It’s amazing how diverse these memorials can be, yet they have one common goal – to honor all men and women veterans,” he said. “We want to develop an archive where people can learn about these beautiful monuments all in one place. We are developing a resource where you can go to find those stories.”

Stone, who is a retired Army master sergeant, said once he returned to civilian life he wanted to find ways to honor veterans. He founded Stone Group in 2012 and calls it a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, which does a significant amount of architectural design work for Veterans Affairs hospitals and other military hospitals nationwide. Next, he started the memorial project in 2021, posting links to memorial sites on his company webpage, but over the past few months the effort has grown significantly. He still said it is just the beginning to what he hopes will be a much larger database.

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Veteran memorial - Moorhead, Minn.
The Moorhead Memorial Bridge crosses the Red River between Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn.
Image: Courtesy of Stone Group Architects

”The ultimate goal here is to create an archive that will basically last forever,” he said. “We hope to keep adding to it. In a utopian world, we’d have every single one of them documented, because there’s no place that really does that.”

While that might not happen, Stone and his team plan to keep adding to the archive by documenting as many memorials as possible.

To date 13 states and 41 memorials are depicted on the site, each with their own photos and history. Some of the photos have been taken by company employees as they work on projects across the country; others have been submitted.

Jordan Metzger, co-owner of Stone Group, said he is especially grateful to be able to document the smaller memorials, some which may be only a simple plaque because funds to do something larger is lacking in some communities.

“Some memorials are fortunate to have large businesses that are willing to back it, but you get into some of these small towns where there’s 250, maybe 300 people and it could be something as simple as a plaque on a wall,” he said. “They're doing what they can do to recognize the veterans in their communities.”

Veteran memorial - Iowa
The Monona County Veterans Memorial Museum and Freedom Rock, one of 99 painted freedom rocks in Iowa.
Image: Courtesy of Stone Group Architects

No matter how large the memorial, Metzger said it is very pleasing to see what communities are doing to honor their former-servicemen and -women.

Not all of the memorials may be flashy, “but it's something to give them (the vets) the recognition they deserve for serving the country – some of them who never made it back home,” he said.

Each memorial has a unique history. One small town carved its monuments into pink-colored quartz, derived locally. Another town struggling with a declining population lost its post office and school, yet thought it was important to build and maintain a veterans memorial.

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There also are large memorials listed from cities such as Honolulu and Gettysburg that host monuments and statues over a span of a hundred acres.

Cindy Bahe, graphic designer and administrative assistant at Stone Group, has done a lot of the research and writing of the histories. With her journalism background, it is right up her alley. She also comes from a strong military family, and so the project has been an enjoyable and interesting one for her.

“I love writing about the memorials, but even better I like getting the human interest stories, the veterans themselves,” she said. “That being said, a lot of the veterans don't want it, especially the ones from World War II and Vietnam. A lot of them don't talk about their experiences, and so a lot of times I find information from their families or friends.”

The veterans won’t be around forever – many have already passed – and so Bahe said it is especially important to grab their stories while they are still alive.

Besides the company website, Bahe shares the stories and photos on its social media pages but would like to see more public participation in the project.

“I encourage people to either email me or pick up the phone and call if they have a story they'd like to share about a family member,” she said. “We very much encourage that. In fact, I would love to get more stories about the veterans.”

For those who have stories or photos of veterans or memorials they’d like to share, contact Bahe at 605-271-1144 or cindyb@stonegrouparch.com .

Andrew Weeks is an award-winning journalist who has reported for a number of newspapers and magazines. He currently is the editor of Prairie Business, the premier business magazine of the northern plains. The magazine covers various industries and business topics in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
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