Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial Unveiled on State Capitol Grounds – Twin Cities

For 20 years or more, Millie, the bronze girl at the center of the “Promise of Youth” statue at the south end of the State Capitol Mall, has reached out from a broken, leaking reflecting pool. In fact, it leaked so much that it sank in an underground tunnel, creating a sloppy, wet and potentially dangerous experience for state employees traveling between government offices, as well as an unlikely welcome for visitors to the veterans services building.

Then came John Kraemer, a retired financial planner from Stillwater and a Vietnam-era veteran of the Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth. Kraemer was looking for a suitable memorial for the 72 recipients of the state Medal of Honor – the highest military decoration for individuals who have displayed exemplary character and bravery in battle – before the last d between them does not die. He didn’t expect the planning, fundraising, and construction to span an entire decade, or that when it was done, the immortal Millie would sit at its center.

Governor Tim Walz joined a who’s who of veterans and planners on Thursday to unveil the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial, a $1 million addition to the ornate walkway at the south entrance of the State Capitol Mall. and a straight shot to the majestic entrance gates of the Capitol.

  • Governor Tim Walz speaks during the dedication ceremony for the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

  • 'Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial' engraved in stone.  Nearby, a gathering of people.

    People listen to presenters during the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial dedication ceremony on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

  • A memorial sculpture.

    The “Promise of Youth” sculpture, the centerpiece of the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial, at the dedication of the memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

  • A woman places a red rose on a memorial.  Someone with a television camera is in the background, as well as a man with a rose.

    A representative Civil War soldier and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Andrew J. Kelley lays a red rose on the reflecting pool of the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial during the dedication of the memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

  • St. Thomas Academy Cadet March

    Cadets from St. Thomas Academy march during the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial dedication ceremony on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

  • People seated in a rally outside the MN State Capitol.  At the front, cadets stand next to a podium on a raised platform, where speakers wait to deliver their remarks.

    People gather for the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial dedication ceremony on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

  • Two people wield a cannon in front of the MN State Capitol.

    Two members of Ulm’s New Battery wield their cannon before the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial dedication ceremony on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press )

  • Members of the New Ulm Battery salute during the dedication ceremony for the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey /Pioneer Press)

    Members of the New Ulm Battery salute during the dedication ceremony for the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey /Pioneer Press)

No more broken water mirror. After spending years disassembling during construction and being stored well outside of town, Millie has returned to her perch inside six large bronze sheets, which now rest on a substantial base decorated with flowing water.

Around her, two granite walls have been carved with the six Medal of Honor values: Courage, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Citizenship, Integrity and Commitment.

“LOTS OF CHALLENGES”

A memorial sculpture.
The “Promise of Youth” sculpture, the centerpiece of the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial, at the dedication of the memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press)

Rather than replacing Millie’s 1950s “Promise of Youth” installation, the new memorial literally encircles and elevates her.

Construction, completed by general contractor Versacon, of New Hope, began in fall 2021.

“There were a lot of challenges to overcome, said Nathan Thome, senior project manager.

From the Veterans Services building, a walkway forms a concrete seam in front of a bench, a pentagonal design on the ground, then in front of Millie, lining up with the State Capitol building in the distance at the north end from the shopping center.

“Probably the hardest part was making sure the geometry and orientation were correct,” Thome said.

Nationally, there are 65 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, which dates back to 1863 and was created under President Abraham Lincoln at the start of the Civil War.

The last of Minnesota’s 72 recipients, Leo Thorsness, a Vietnamese-era colonel in the U.S. Air Force, died in 2018.

A CENTENARY VISION

Two people wield a cannon in front of the MN State Capitol.
Two members of Ulm’s New Battery wield their cannon before the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial dedication ceremony on the grounds of the State Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (John Autey/Pioneer Press )

Thursday’s dedication ceremony featured five Medal of Honor recipients from across the country and included a cannon volley, flyover of vintage military aircraft, memorabilia from the Military Museum and veterans of Minnesota, the music of the 34th Infantry Division “Red Bull” Band and the participation of cadets from St. Thomas Academy, a military high school in Mendota Heights.

Kraemer, who presided over the effort to erect the memorial, said he discovered during his painstaking fundraising efforts that before he concluded his term in the early 1900s, the famous architect of the Capitol of state, Cass Gilbert, had drawn a sketch by hand of where he would like to see a veteran. memorial – the most important place he could think of.

Today, some 19 to 24 different statues and memorials line the mall, depending on how you count, and the Medal of Honor memorial completes Gilbert’s century-old vision.

So what took so long?

Organizers said delays included waiting for the underground tunnel to be insulated, as well as a complicated state fundraising effort that required Kraemer’s nonprofit to seek matching funds. private.

Paul Mandell, former executive secretary of the Capitol Region Architecture and Planning Council, said the million-dollar memorial was based on significant state inheritance law contributions. and several veterans groups. Partial funding remained intact for so long that it expired.

“At one point, because the money was coming from taxpayers’ money instead of bonds, it got canceled,” Mandell recalls with a laugh. “We didn’t even know what had happened. The money disappeared, then we had to go and ask for it again.

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