MANKATO — Dedicating a statue that he said “masterfully captures both the pride and resolve of our veterans,” historian Bryce Stenzel urged Memorial Day observers not to forget about veterans' unseen wounds.
The statue depicts a veteran who lost his leg in the Vietnam War saluting the American flag as a parade honor guard approaches. “Stand for the Flag,” was created by Lee Leuning and Sherri Treebly and was the people's choice winner of the 2016 CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour. It was dedicated Monday at its now permanent home saluting the flags at Veteran's Memorial Place.
The statue is a reminder of veterans' sacrifices, said Stenzel, who has led Memorial Day ceremonies for decades.
“The missing leg is obvious, but what we can't see when we look at the statue are the emotional scars this veteran carries with him,” he said.
The son of a World War II veteran said he hopes the statue “will serve as a powerful reminder” of the collective duty to take care of the veterans.
“Regardless of the war they were involved in, all of America's military veterans deserve our respect, love and support as they return home and transition themselves back from the role of protectors in wartime to parents, students, employers and employees,” Stenzel said.
The ceremony attendees included Vietnam veteran Andy Anderson of Mankato.
“I love it,” he said of the statue. “It really makes you stop and think about what we did (in Vietnam) and why we did it,” he said.
Anderson served in the Army from 1957 to 1966. Before being sent to Vietnam he was stationed in Germany and got to go watch the 1964 Winter Olympics in Austria. In Vietnam his duties included transporting supplies from the train to the base and building sheds to store the supplies.
When he arrived back on U.S. soil he said a woman spit on him in the San Francisco airport and called him a “baby killer.” But that act of disrespect was countered by an act of kindness, he said. A woman who had lost her son in the war bought him lunch.
Watching the ceremony with Anderson was Steve Deeren of Mankato. He concluded his decade of military service as U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to escalate. He enlisted in the Navy Reserves after high school and served on active duty from 1962 to 1964. He was a communications technician aboard the USS Oklahoma City.
It was Deeren's first time viewing the statue and said it well captures veterans' “loyalty and commitment to the United States.”
“I'm happy they put it here. It sure fits the location,” said Deeren, who is among the many veterans whose service is commemorated on pavers in the memorial park.