“Everyone who served, whether they were overseas or not — they served in some way to this country,” states Maynard LaFleur, who spearheaded the effort to have a Rushford Veterans Memorial in Rushford, Minn., which was recently completed.
“I always wanted something in remembrance for the soldiers who served and who fought,” expresses LaFleur. “I started it in my mind years ago,” he says. A Vietnam veteran himself, LaFleur started thinking about a possible veterans memorial for the town about 20 years ago.
“It was always in my mind to do it,” notes LaFleur, but when he was working it was hard to find the time. “When I finally retired it was pretty strong in me again to get this done,” he says.
A few years ago LaFleur contacted the city administrator of Rushford at the time, Steve Sarvi, to ask if there was land available in the city where a veterans memorial could be placed. “He was excited because he’s a military man,” says LaFleur and Sarvi told him of five different sites in town that could possibly be used.
LaFleur looked at all five sites more than once, even visiting the sites during different seasons to see how a memorial would look. “I always came back to this one,” says LaFleur of the site chosen, which is within the city park near Ben Niggle field.
After choosing the site, LaFleur attended a city council meeting to request the veterans memorial installation. The council agreed but asked that the area be as maintenance free as possible as the city will maintain it.
The project was designed to be completed in four phases, with the fourth phase recently being finished.
Support and funding for the veterans memorial came from area businesses, organizations and individuals. “They have been really great about donating to the project,” states LaFleur. Grants were received from the Rushford Community Foundation in support of the project, which was really helpful, according to LaFleur. An additional grant was received from AcenTek to support the project.
Robin Rislove donated much of his time as he made forms and laid the cement, which was a big job. “He did a lot,” expresses LaFleur. Winona Concrete were fully behind the project and provided a discount on the cement needed. Norman’s Electric also donated to the project by making the forms for the lights to go up and installing the lights, which add so much to the memorial.
La Crosse Monuments of La Crosse, Wis., have been very supportive of the veterans memorial project and gave great discounts on the requested monuments, which are exquisite. “They have really helped out,” explains LaFleur.
The City of Rushford was excited about the project and provided equipment needed, along with sand and pea gravel. Some businesses purchased or contributed toward the purchase of flags, and individuals such as LaFleur and his wife Rhonda purchased flags. Benches were donated by the Rushford American Legion Riders, Rushford Lions Club and the Rushford American Legion. Additional monuments were donated by the Rushford Community Foundation, Maynard and Rhonda LaFleur, and the David O. Colbenson Family.
Another way of supporting the project is by purchasing a 8”x8” brick paver, which can then be engraved with the name of a service member. The bricks cost $200 each. “We wanted them so people could afford them,” says LaFleur, noting that those “in memory of” do not have to be from the Rushford area — anyone is welcome. “People have been very good about buying bricks also,” says LaFleur.
The astroturf used between the monuments, in order to help keep the area low maintenance, actually came out of the old Minnesota Vikings stadium. Rick Penz, LaFleur’s former boss and owner of Fraser Construction of Rochester, Minn., purchased the astroturf and offered to donate as much as needed when LaFleur asked for some to use at the memorial.
A plaque dedicated by the servicemen of Rushford on May 30, 1951, in memory of those service members lost in WWI and WWII, was last hung at the city hall. It was moved to the Rushford Veterans Memorial and proudly placed on a granite podium which was donated by Hoff Funeral Home of Winona, Minn.
The entire Rushford Veterans Memorial has special meaning, but within the area, certain things are symbolic and have special meaning to Maynard.
The etching on the cement in front of the flag poles represents WWII and prior, explains LaFleur, as they look like jungle leaves and foliage. He notes that if you look into it deeper you see angels in the cement — you can see wings and you can see angels faces. “This represents that the angels are overlooking and protecting our soldiers that have passed away and that are serving today,” states LaFleur.
The bricks represent Operation Desert Storm and the sand our country is fighting in overseas still today. “That’s why they are that color,” says LaFleur. The astroturf represents “the fighting that our soldiers have given so that we can have our kids play and choose to play any game or anything outdoors we have today,” he states.
There is a replica Civil War cannon which came from the southern United States. “It’s fireable,” says LaFleur, even though it is a replica, it is a symbol of the Civil War and those who fought.
LaFleur expresses that they worked hard to get all the wars and conflicts in that the United States has served in — and some that are still going on today, to make sure everyone that should be represented was included.
Those who have seen the Rushford Veterans Memorial are very impressed. “I’ve had a lot of compliments on it,” states LaFleur. “People thought this was a great idea from the beginning.”
After dusk when the lights of the Rushford Veterans Memorial come on it is a sight to behold, as LaFleur says they love going by at night and looking at it because it’s a whole different mood than during the day.
“Everything I did here was all in my heart and it felt good doing it,” states LaFleur. He is quick to acknowledge many others who supported the project in one way or another, saying the Rushford Veterans Memorial is for anyone who would like to visit.
“It’s not Legion, it’s not VFW — it’s a veteran’s memorial within the city — it’s everyone’s,” says LaFleur.