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Byron group ready to build memorial to honor veterans

After years of languishing, the plan to build a veterans memorial in Byron has finally gotten rolling.

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Aaron Miller, left, and Carl Dewaard, both involved with the upcoming Veteran Memorial near 10 Avenue northeast and Frontage Road Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 in Byron. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

BYRON — When Carl Dewaard took over as commander of the American Legion post in Byron, he had a mission.

Dewaard decided that the city of Byron, one of the few in southern Minnesota without one, needed a veterans memorial.

"When I came in as commander, that was my first action to get that going," he said. "But it's been hard to get going."

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Building a veterans memorial costs money, and as Dewaard said, he's not really a "money pursuer guy."

Fortunately, he found a partner in Aaron Miller, a fellow veteran and member at the Legion in Byron. Miller was invited to speak at a Memorial Day event, and afterwards the two spoke about Dewaard's dream of getting a memorial built.

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"Then Aaron, he said, 'I could help you if you like,'" Dewaard said. "He has taken off, and he is quite the go-getter."

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The future site of the Veteran Memorial near 10 Avenue northeast and Frontage Road Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 in Byron. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

From there, the two began putting together a committee, Miller began approaching businesses for sponsorship, and they began asking the community for money.

"When we started, we had couple of thousand dollars in the account," Miller said. "We're now at $80,000 and have commitments that we're halfway there including in-kind donations."

The project will cost about $365,000, Miller said, with most of that cost going to granite and rock, and a big part for labor. But as they've approached people in the Byron community, no one has flat-out said no. Instead, people who can't write a check immediately pledged money for down the road or offer in-kind help.

There's an excavator in Byron who offered his services. Professional masons have offered their skills working with brick.

The project is being managed by construction professional Bob Pries, who is helping make sure the project happens on schedule, in order and on time.

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"It's been wonderful to see the outpouring from the community," Miller said.

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An artist rendering shows what the Byron Veterans Memorial will look like when completed. Contributed photo

That's meant financial donations ranging from tens of thousands of dollars down to $50.

It's those $50 donations that have meant so much, Dewaard said, because they come from people for whom $50 is a big commitment.

The memorial itself will have two sets of names. Etched into the granite will be the names of people from the Byron area who paid the ultimate price while serving in the military. Then, there will be 462 pavers – 70 have already been sold – to honor any veteran, no matter where they're from, who served honorably.

Right now, Miller said, he's been working with others to make sure they have the names of everyone they can find who has ties to Byron for the granite. While names can be added later, it's easier to give the list to the quarry and have them added before the pillars are delivered.

"The biggest fear I have with this is missing somebody," Miller said.

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An artist rendering shows what the Byron Veterans Memorial will look like when completed. Contributed photo

The memorial will be lnear the intersection of 10th Street and U.S. Highway 14, right along the path of the bike path, meaning both car and pedestrian/cycling traffic will have access.

The group has worked with the city to ensure that the location will not be disturbed by eventual changes coming to Highway 14. Miller said the city has assured them that the location will not be impacted based on the current plans developed by the Highway 14 study group.

That means the memorial, which should break ground next spring, will be a feature for the city for years to come.

"I just think this will be a wonderful addition to Byron," Miller said.

Related Topics: PEOPLEBYRONOLMSTED COUNTY
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