At the southern end of the State Capitol Mall, Millie, the bronze girl in the “Promise of Youth” monument, stretched out from a cracked reflecting pool that spilled water for at least 20 years. It really leaked so severely that water began to seep into a tunnel under the ground, making it slippery, damp, and possibly unsafe for state employees to move between offices and giving visitors to the Veterans Service Building an unexpected welcome.
Then came John Kraemer, a retired financial advisor from Stillwater who served with the 148th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard in Duluth during the Vietnam War. Before the last of the state’s 72 Medal of Honor winners passed away, Kraemer set out to create an appropriate monument to honor their heroism and character in battle. The Medal of Honor is the highest military medal. He had no idea that the planning, funding, and building would take a full decade, or that the immortal Millie would be seated at its center.
The Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial, a $1 million addition to the ornamented pathway at the State Capitol Mall’s southern entrance and a direct route to the Capitol’s imposing front doors, was unveiled on Thursday alongside a who’s who of soldiers and planners. Governor Tim Walz was also there.
The cracked reflecting pool is gone. Millie has returned to her perch within six enormous bronze leaves, which are now perched on a massive foundation embellished with flowing water after spending years dismantled during construction and kept deep outside the city.
The six Medal of Honor values—Courage, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Citizenship, Integrity, and Commitment—have been engraved into two granite walls that surround her.
The new monument physically raises Millie’s “Promise of Youth” work from the 1950s rather than replacing it.
Versacon, a general contractor, started work on the New Hope project in the autumn of 2021.
The project presented several difficulties, according to senior project manager Nathan Thome.
After passing Millie and a seat with a pentagonal pattern on the ground, the path from the Veterans Service Building lines up with the State Capitol building in the distance at the north end of the mall.
Making ensuring the geometry and alignment were accurate was perhaps the most challenging aspect of it, according to Thome.
The Medal of Honor, which goes back to 1863 and was established under President Abraham Lincoln during the early stages of the Civil War, has 65 surviving winners worldwide.
Leo Thorsness, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and the last of Minnesota’s 72 honorees, passed away in 2018.
Five Medal of Honor recipients from across the nation attended the dedication ceremony on Thursday, which also featured a cannon volley, a flyover by a vintage military plane, artifacts from the Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum, music by the 34th Infantry Division “Red Bull” Band, and cadets from Mendota Heights’ St. Thomas Academy.
The famous State Capitol architect Cass Gilbert sketched a hand design of where he’d want to see a veterans monument before winding up his career in the early 1900s, Kraemer, who headed the drive to construct the memorial, said he learned through his arduous fundraising efforts.
Depending on how one counts, there are now 19 to 24 various sculptures and monuments along the mall, and the Medal of Honor Memorial completes Gilbert’s century-old design.
What, then, took so long?
The subterranean tunnel’s insulation as well as a challenging state fundraising campaign that necessitated Kraemer’s NGO to look for private matching money were among the reasons for the delays, according to the organizers.
The $1 million monument required significant funding from the state Legacy Act as well as other veterans’ organizations, according to Paul Mandell, a former executive secretary of the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board. For too long, some financing was lying around unused.
Mandell recalls, with a grin, “At one time, since the money had come via tax dollars instead of bonds, it canceled. “We had no idea what had occurred. We had to go back and beg for the money after it vanished.