Elk River has two veteran memorials, including one to a fallen member of the school’s Class of 1950
by Joni Astrup
Appleton has named all of its streets and avenues after the city’s fallen war heroes.
In Anoka, a statue of Rick Sorenson is on display. He’s an Anoka native who was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II for his heroism after throwing himself on an exploding Japanese grenade to save the lives of five fellow Marines.
In the town of Echo stands a stone monument with an eagle on top dedicated to local members of the armed forces.
The monument reads: “Etched in history, etched in stone, etched in our hearts. With pride and gratitude, citizens of the Echo community.”
Jay Grammond showed photos of those memorials and others and talked about the stories behind them during his program on veterans memorials held Friday, Nov. 4 — just one week before Veterans Day. He spoke at the Elk River Senior Activity Center, located in the Furniture and Things Community Event Center.
Grammond, of Princeton, has been a photographer since 1981. He worked for District 728 Community Education in Elk River for 15 years before ramping up his photography business and leaving his full-time job in 2020.
He talked about veterans memorials from Ada to Zimmerman during the program in Elk River.
A Minnesota city that’s home to a number of veterans memorials is St. Paul. One of them is the Minnesota Military Family Tribute.
Boulders in a garden are part of that memorial. There’s one “story stone” for each of the 87 counties in Minnesota, and etched on each one is a quote from correspondence sent between soldiers and family members from the Civil War to the present.
Grammond showed a photo of the stone representing Todd County. The quote from 1916 said, “I know nothing so sublime as the forgiveness of those who wore the blue and who wore the gray after detesting each other bitterly in the days of the Civil War.”
Other memorials feature the hardware of war.
A gun from the USS Ward is on display in St. Paul, a 105 mm howitzer is located by the American Legion in Anoka, an anchor from the USS Courtney and a tank are displayed in Princeton and a Vietnam-era AH-1G Attack Cobra helicopter is on display in Breckenridge.
Closer to home, Zimmerman has a veterans memorial located along the east side of Highway 169 that pays tribute to the USS Liberty.
Elk River has a veterans memorial by Highway 10 near the Dairy Queen. Another veterans memorial in Elk River is located in Lions John Weicht Park, near the Boys and Girls Club. That one honors Raymond Schwartz and members of the Elk River Class of 1950 who served. Schwartz was killed in action in 1951.
Grammond’s hometown of Grey Eagle has a veterans memorial as well, recognizing all local veterans. Two of the names etched on the stone monument are his brothers, Gary Grammond and Rick Grammond. They both served in the U.S. Army in the 1980s, he said.
While those memorials were all planned, funded and built, one of the memorials Grammond came across simply came into being.
At Fort Snelling, Grammond found what he described as an unofficial memorial: Members of the First Minnesota had carved their names into the soft bricks of one of the buildings there during the Civil War era. The names are still visible today.
“I thought that was a neat memorial in itself,” Grammond said.