A Blaine teenager took huge steps to make sure that people do not forget the wars in which Americans have fought and the veterans who served.
Austin Swenson, 17, was working on obtaining the Eagle Scout award, which is the highest honor bestowed upon a Boy Scout. The Troop 714 member chose to create a veterans memorial after talking to his grandfather August, who served during World War II.
Swenson continued to work hard on this project after August died a couple of years ago. August was on his father Tony’s side of the family. Many of Tony’s brothers pitched in some of August’s estate funds to get this project started, Austin said.
This memorial lists every war in which the country has fought, from the Revolutionary War to the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. government has officially declared the end of the war in Iraq, so the memorial lists the time frame of this from 2003 to 2011. The war in Afghanistan continues, so the memorial does not include an end date.
Every military branch logo as well as a prisoners of war (POW) symbol are other engraved pavers within the memorial, which Swenson said was inspired from a similar memorial in his grandfather’s hometown.
The city of Blaine helped throughout the process, according to Swenson. There were a couple of different site options and the city suggested right in front of Blaine City Hall in Town Square Park.
Jim Kappelhoff, the city’s parks and recreation director, said Town Square Park is a great location because it is a passive park without playground equipment so people have a peaceful place to reflect. A nearby fountain adds to this ambience.
With a United States flag also flying on a flagpole near this site, Councilmember Dave Clark said this area would be a great location for future services when troops are coming home or during Memorial Day, for example.
Swenson is very happy with how he and all the volunteers and donors were able to transform a patch of grass into this memorial. Approximately 30 Scouts and adults constructed the memorial in one day after the city excavated the site on a previous day.
Hedberg Landscape and Masonry Supplies of Andover donated and engraved the pavers and also donated two stone benches.
“It’s just unbelievable how good it looks,” Swenson said.
“The organization on Austin’s behalf was amazing,” said Bruce Fiedler, who has a son, Bode, in Troop 714.
Jerry Walthour, chairperson of the Blaine Park Board, said during the Sept. 29 memorial dedication ceremony that the day was about honoring the veterans and those who continue to serve.
According to Walthour, this day was also about honoring Swenson, who he said showed drive and enthusiasm in creating this wonderful memorial.
“It’s as much a tribute to (Austin) as it is to those who have served this country,” said Walthour, who served in the U.S. Army.
Mayor Tom Ryan said these things do not happen without good parents and good Scout leaders.
Ryan has had the privilege of recognizing 26 Eagle Scouts and he said what a big deal this is for the Scouts and the families who raised them. He recalled how one grandmother in a recent ceremony came all the way from Utah to see her grandson get his Eagle Scout.
One of the most emotional parts of the ceremony was when Austin’s parents Diane and Tony spoke. Austin’s father was so choked up that his mother spoke first, but Tony was able to give a poignant statement that it is important to remember positive moments like this in times when everybody is hearing about all the tough things happening in the world.
“We’re very proud of you Austin. Good job,” Tony said as he choked up.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]