Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

A Memorial Day tradition


Lois E. Johnson

In what has now become a Memorial Day tradition, the Color Guard leads the march to Veterans Park.

Each year, as part of the Memorial Day service in Moose Lake, the Color Guard, scouts and others walk to Veterans' Park, at the corner of Birch Avenue and Seventh Street. The scouts lay poppies near the monument and the Color Guard performs a gun salute and the flag raising and lowering ceremony.

Mike Peterson, a Vietnam veteran, who leads the Color Guard, spoke about the creation of Veterans Park and the symbolism of each component at this year's Memorial Day service at the school.

"Veterans Park was created for all veterans, from the Revolutionary War to those currently serving, but it is mostly for Northland veterans," said Peterson. "Planning for the park began in 1994. We quickly learned about the deep feelings of veterans when we began to develop the park."

Peterson told of the varied opinions of those who contributed ideas for the park.

"It was important for us to honor all service men and women, whether they served in peacetime or wartime," he said. "But not everyone agreed. And competition developed between the members of the VFW and the American Legion. Each organization took turns hosting the Memorial Day program, but there was chaos every year. "

Peterson explained that ideas from a city official were not accepted.

"Dave Talbot was the city administrator at the time and a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War," he said. "They didn't like his ideas. He had a beard and they called him 'Whiskers.' They said they weren't going to listen to Whiskers, 'We are going to do it our way.'"

Donations for the park were given by the American Legion and VFW posts of Moose Lake, Lake State Federal Credit Union of Moose Lake, Moose Lake Township and others, said Peterson.

"As we planned, we kept in mind that we had a triangular piece of property," he explained. "We had to keep a low profile for line of sight visibility for everything from bicycles to buses."

Peterson explained there were many considerations given to all components of the park. Sidewalks were designed to not suffer from frost heaves during the winter and discussions were held to decide the type of trees to plant.

"Some wanted cedar trees and quit when the decision was made to plant white crab apple trees," he said. "We felt they would be blooming on Memorial Day. Now, because of the climate change, they bloom before Memorial Day."

Peterson told the audience the trees were blooming beautifully the day before the Memorial Day service this year, but rain the previous day had taken many of the petals from the blossoms.

"We dedicated the Veterans Park to Northland veterans on May 26, 1997," he said. "The city engineer helped us finish the design."

Peterson described the symbolism of the park.

The triangular shape of the park represents the veterans of the Revolutionary War," he said. "The Virginia blue uniforms, which George Washington designed, included the triangular hats. That's why the flag is folded into a triangle. It represents that, too.

"The center of the park has the United States flag and flagpole. Those represent the freedom of the people. The five point star at the base of the flagpole represents the five branches of the military. The point pointing north represents Northland veterans."

Five sidewalks lead from the star. Two black blocks of granite are inset in each sidewalk, said Peterson. Three of the sidewalks have a second block.

"Each sidewalk has one block that states, 'For God and Our County'," he said. "Those represent the sacrifices that many veterans have given to their country. The shortest sidewalk also has a block that says, 'Life.' That is a symbol of the fallen veterans who gave their lives for God and Country.

"The second sidewalk has a black block that says, 'Liberty.' That's for those veterans who had lost their liberty, like those that were prisoners of war. They lost their liberty as they were serving their God and our country.

"The third sidewalk has a block that says, 'Pursuit of Happiness.' That represents the veterans who have been wounded either physically or mentally because of war.

Paul Staab

A recent aerial view of Moose Lake's Veterans Park.

"The saddest thing to me is the high rate of suicide for veterans. It's the same amount of soldiers that had been killed in action. This sidewalk represents their journey in trying to pursue happiness in life. A lot of them have found happiness when they found a mission."

Peterson explained the black granite came from near St. Cloud and the monument, covered in field stone from the local area, was built by Dave Matuseski, a local mason. The plaque on top of the monument has the inscription: 'The Moose Lake Community honors those veterans who have served this country honorably and faithfully through peacetime and while at war. To those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice we will never forget you.'"

"Two benches in the park are a place where people can sit and reflect," said Peterson.

The white blooms on the trees represent the families waiting, and the fallen petals represent the tears of the families of the fallen. May all veterans find their peace."


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