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Vietnam memorial will be in German Park

NEW ULM — The Vietnam memorial will be added to German Park in the newly named Veteran Square.

The New Ulm City unanimously accepted the donation of the Vietnam memorial and renaming the section of the park containing the United States flag as Veterans Square during Tuesday’s meeting.

The proposed memorial 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.

The final approval of the donated memorial was greeted with applause from a roomful of supporters attending the meeting who wanted to see the memorial placed.

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 city was in favor of accepting the monument, as a Vietnam veterans monument was viewed as a positive for this city, but there were some concerns on where to place it. The monument donor originally asked to place the monument in German Park near the U.S. flag.

Concerned that this would set a precedent and other memorials would follow, the New Ulm City Council was hesitant to place the memorial in German Park. Several members of the council suggested it would be more appropriate to create a larger veterans memorial for the city at another location. This led to the creation of a committee 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 committee, a recommendation was made and approved that a section of German Park would be named Veterans Square and the donated Vietnam Veteran panel would be installed.

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

Lambrecht’s primary focus was to create the Vietnam monument for German Park. The proposal was called Veterans Square and would be located in the 2,400 square foot space near the U.S. flag in German Park.

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

There was also concern from Lambrecht and other veterans that creating a separate Veterans Park would cost more and take too much time to complete.

Lambrecht said he was not opposed to an expansion of his idea, but he did not want to wait to honor Vietnam Veterans.

With the committee’s recommendation, the acceptance of the plaque came before the council again. Lambrecht attended the meeting and once again gave a presentation on the reasons for locating the memorial in German Park. He also responded to claims that the original donation had expanded.

Lambrecht said the process of getting approval has led to additional suggestions from various committee members. In responding to these suggestions it has been perceived that Lambrecht was expanding the scope of the project, but wanted to assure the city he was just trying to answer questions concerning the donation.

He did acknowledge that through extra donations, a second panel was being added to the donation. Originally the donation was for one two-sided panel with the names of the six veterans on one side and a poem on the other side. On further consideration, it was decided to separate the poem from the Vietnam panel because the poem spoke to all wars, not a single conflict. The backside of the panel with the poem will be left blank at this time. Lambrecht said a committee could determine what went on the other side at a later date. The Vietnam panel would still include the names of Dennis Wellmann, Daniel Lloyd, Henry Polzin, Timothy Sullivan, Steven Seemann and Rickey Slander. The opposite side of this panel would include references to the families impacted by the Vietnam war.

Lambrecht included a detailed plan for how to incorporate panels into the park if the city should choose to expand Veterans Square. Bolton & Menk helped with creating a site development plan that could be used by the city at a later date. The other panels could be installed in phases if the city decided to expand the project.

The council was not asked to approve the full development of Veteran Square. The approval was only for the renaming of the park section and the installation of the two donated panels.

The presentation also included a letter from Cleo Polzin, the 93-year-old mother of Henry Polzin. She is the only Gold Star mother in New Ulm. The letter was read by Mary Polzin, Henry’s sister.

In the letter, Cleo Polzin gave her support for placing the memorial in German Park. In her letter, she told about her family’s experiences of losing a song in the war, learning about his death and experiencing how poorly Vietnam Vets were treated after the war.

“These six men can’t speak for themselves, but the families, classmates, friends and veterans can,” Polzin said. “It is 52 years to recognize these men. Is this the location or the time to acknowledge these young men? Would we even have parks to celebrate and memorialize if it were not for all the fallen soldiers from Vietnam and other wars that made the ultimate sacrifice?”

Polzin approved of the German Park location because she associated the park with family. Her family celebrated many reunions there. She also had memories of Henry swimming at the German Park pool. She believes the other veterans on the memorial had connections to German Park as well.

“Why would this not be an appropriate site to remember these men?” she asked.

Mary Polzin also addressed the council saying, they could put this issue to rest by approving it.

Lambrecht asked the council not to drag supporters of the memorial through another committee.

City Councilor Les Schultz said the council’s responsibility was to review projects like this to make sure it works for the community. The Parks and Monuments Commission was part of the standard approval for projects like this. He then explained that once it came to the city council last month, the council supported the project but wanted to expand it.

Schultz asked for the task force to see if there was a better location for the Vietnam monument. After the committee met, they decided German Park was the best location.

“That decision is pretty much made,” Schultz said. Based on the recommendation, he made the motion to name the section of German Park containing the U.S. flag pole as Veterans Square. This was seconded by Councilor Eric Warmka.

Councilor David Christian said at first he did not think German Park was the best site for the memorial but changed his mind based on the work of the commissions and his research into other city veteran parks.

Councilor Larry Mack said he also changed his mind about German Park. He said it was pointed out in commission meetings that veteran parks had cost a significant amount of money in other communities and he did not think the city should be creating another brand new park as it was a time-consuming process.

“I don’t feel the veterans or families should have to wait 10 years for a park,” he said.

Mayor Terry Sveine said the format presented by Lambrecht was tasteful and would not overwhelm the park. The plan alleviated his concerns about locating the memorial at German Park.

Before the council voted to rename the section of the park, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee member Roger Klockziem asked the council to let the committee considering other locations further. Klockziem said he did not feel the committee fulfilled its original purpose of considering alternate sites. He felt German Park was the only location considered and further consideration needed to be given to other sites.

Council President Andrea Boettger asked if the committee discussed other sites at the July 19 meeting.

City Manager Chris Dalton said a section of land by the Water Plant across from German Park and the cemetery was brought up as alternative multiple times. None of the audience attending the meeting supported these sites.

Boettger said the city could spend years weighing the various alternative locations and spending up to $1 million to develop a park is not an option for the city. She wanted to move forward.

Warmka was a member of the committee and said he thought the purpose of the committee was to get clarity on this project. He felt the committee was successful. He did not see a purpose or any potential gain of discussing alternative options.

The council voted unanimously to name the grass area around the U.S. flag pole in German Park Veterans Square.

Warmka made the motion to accept the first two donated veterans granite panels, the first single-sided with a poem honoring all veterans and the second two-sided honoring Vietnam veterans including the six young men from New Ulm killed in action. Christian seconded the motion.

The final design of the two panels is still being considered. It is anticipated the design, construction and placement of the panels will take a year.

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