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German Park likeliest location of Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The section of German Park with the American flag pole is the proposed site for the Veterans Square. A panel remembering New Ulm Vietnam Veterans has already been funded by a local donor.

NEW ULM — German Park remains the first recommendation for the location of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, following a committee meeting with the memorial donor.

Recently, the city received a donation from an anonymous donor for the creation and installation of a Vietnam Veterans memorial in German Park near the American flag.

The monument would honor the six men who graduated from New Ulm who were killed in action during the Vietnam War: Dennis Wellmann, Daniel Lloyd, Henry Polzin, Timothy Sullivan, Steven Seemann and Rickey Slander.

This monument and its placement in German Park were unanimously approved by the Park and Recreation Commission and the Monuments and Cemetery Commission. However, there has been some concern from the Friends of German Park organization that the monument should be placed at another location.

German Park’s master plan did not include military memorials and there was concern that there was insufficient room for the monument. In addition, it was believed other groups might request similar memorials in the future. The council questioned whether it would be more appropriate to create a larger veterans memorial for the city at another location.

This led to the creation of a commission to determine if an alternative option for a larger veterans memorial at a different location was possible.

The committee included City Councilor Eric Warmka, former mayor Bob Beussman, Tony Miller, Denis Warta, Tom Backer, Roger Klockziem and Michelle Markgraf. After a single meeting of the commission, a recommendation was made and approved that a section of German Park be named Veteran’s Square and the donated Vietnam Veteran panel be installed.

The committee was primarily persuaded to make this recommendation by the anonymous donor who was revealed to be Bruce Lambrecht.

Lambrecht developed a proposal for German Park called Veterans Square. The American flag in the park would be the focus point. Different panels could be added around the flag to remember different conflicts, but his focus was on Vietnam and the six New Ulm graduates who died in that war. His donation was for this single panel, but this plan would allow additional panels to be added later if other donors wish to remember conflicts.

Lambrecht said the text to the Vietnam panel would not change. It would include the six deceased veterans’ names, a poem by Archibald Maleish and a quote by Caspar Weinberger. The physical look of the panel could change.

Lambrecht said the Veterans Square would be 2,400 square feet at most and he believed German Park was the best spot.

“It is small, it is compact, it shows humility and it shows scale,” he said. Lambrecht was in contact with Vietnam veterans and they were not requesting anything large.

Lambrecht provided a list of 15 reasons German Park was his preferred location of the panel including the American flag already in the park, restroom facilities, performing arts center, proximity to downtown, the park’s accessibility, the playground and the park already hosting special events. He believes all these elements would generate traffic and more people would see the panel.

Lambrecht did not feel the city needed to create another park unit specifically for veterans when park space was already available in German Park.

There was some concern that the panel would not be accessible in the winter since German Park is not plowed, but Lambrecht said that was unavoidable in Minnesota. Any park would have the same issue.

Commissioner Markgraf said seeing the plan envisioned for the park and the panels was beneficial.

“We actually have a plan in place,” she said.

Commissioner Backer said he believed the committee was formed because there was misunderstanding and confusion of what this monument would be and concerns about setting precedence.

Backer believes if the city council had seen Lambrecht’s presentation, it would have been approved that night.

Warmka said the initial recommendation to the council was difficult to take in because there was no plan in place for other monuments or panels, but Lambrecht’s plan made it easier to approve.

“Having this in place is going to make things a lot easier,” Warmka said. He believes that if Lambrecht and the veterans were in favor of this plan, the city would likely approve it.

Commissioner Klockziem asked if this need could be fulfilled in any other park.

“If you’re going to do something, why don’t you want to do it where the most people are going to see it over a period of time,” Lambrecht said. “You could put it at Shag Road, but no one could see it.”

Lambrecht believes near the amphitheater was the best spot for the panel.

Commissioner Warta said planning was the most important. He believes there was a long-term issue to consider and was not convinced the site was large enough for additional panels. Warta was also concerned about visuals and believes the city had other sites that might be appropriate.

Klockziem wanted to know if the various veterans groups that signed off on this plan were given alternative sites other than German Park.

Lambrecht admitted he was focused on German Park as the site because he believed it would maximize visitors. He asked the committee how many plans for Vietnam monuments had been presented in the last 52 years. The answer was zero.

“We can move forward or we can get hung up on the minutia,” Lambrecht said. “Henry Polzin’s mother is the only gold star mother left. She is 94. She wants to see this. If for nobody else, we have to move forward on this. It can’t be a bureaucratic slog that is going to take months.”

The meeting included statements from veterans in attendance.

Tom Roesch told stories about his father’s return from the Philippines after WWII and seeing signs in yards that said “Sailors and dogs keep off the grass.” Roesch would later see similar signs after returning from Vietnam.

He asked the committee to not deny veterans access to this grass in German Park.

Vietnam veteran Roy Janni of Courtland also spoke. He said Vietnam vets came home as individuals rather than as groups. There were not welcome home celebrations.

Janni believes the six deceased veterans whose names will appear on the panel likely spent a lot of time at German Park in their youth, because of the pool and the nearby ballpark. For that reason, he believes it was an appropriate place for the panel.

Lambrecht’s older brother Duane Lambrecht also spoke. Duane Lambrecht served in Vietnam. He was wounded in Vietnam but said the worst day was coming home and having to walk through a San Francisco airport and being spit at and called a baby killer. Duane Lambrecht said for 40 years few people knew he was a Vietnam veteran. He believes this panel was a remembrance and thank-you to those who served.

Commissioner Klockziem disagreed with the idea of creating a small veterans memorial.

“I think the city should think about a freedom park large enough to create an aura of reverence and respect,” he said. “I think you’re squeezing it into too small of a place. I would encourage you to think bigger.”

Klockziem suggested a city block size park.

Backer said he contacted St. Peter’s Chamber of Commerce and learned the Veterans Park in that city cost $800,000 and took 10 years to create.

“All these vets, family members, a donor wants to do this and for some reason, some people are fighting this location, I don’t get it,” Backer said.

He said the Fairmount veteran park took 20 years to make and cost over $1 million.

Backer did not have an issue with creating a bigger monument than the one proposed but reminded the committee it will take 10 years before a ribbon cutting was held and it will cost money.

Backer believes every previous objection to placing the panel in German Park had already been addressed in Lambrecht’s plan.

Bruce Lambrecht said if German Park was approved as Veterans Square and then years later a bigger idea comes to pass, he would be fine moving the Vietnam remembrance panel or incorporating it into the bigger idea. His only hesitation as he did not want to wait 10 years.

Lambrecht asked that the city take advantage of the space in German Park now, rather than searching for something better that they might not find.

Backer made a motion recommending the section of German Park be named Veterans Square and to accept the donation of the Vietnam veterans panel to be the first to go into Veterans Square. The motion was seconded by Markgraf. The motion passed.

Lambrecht agreed to make a presentation before the council during the first meeting in August.

Warmka asked if Lambrecht had enough time to prepare to make a presentation to the council by the first meeting in August.

Lambrecht believes he has plenty of time to prepare.

City Manager Chris Dalton said this presentation can be placed on the city council’s agenda for the Tuesday, August 3, meeting.

Markgraf thanked Lambrecht for his proposed donation and said she understood the delay in the city accepting the donation was likely frustrating but believed this was also a blessing. More people were now aware of the monument and a greater number of people would likely visit it after installation.

Lambrecht agreed and thanked the commission.

The Vietnam Monument and proposed Veterans Square will come before the City Council again on Tuesday, August 3.

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