As a 15-year-old, Dominique Claseman of Olivia, Minnesota, presented the Olivia City Council with his idea to construct a veterans monument in his hometown. He had architect designs with him, as well as a location selected.
He was sure that the public would want to contribute to something like this, despite the fact that it was a big endeavor.
His vision became a reality two years later after he had spent two years waiting.
Hundreds of people gathered on Memorial Day to dedicate Dominique’s Eagle Scout project, which he completed a few weeks shy of his 17th birthday.
The young guy said in his remarks, “The monument in front of you is the consequence of the generosity and encouragement that I and other community veterans have gotten.”
Dominique’s ability to pull it off impressed Ron Kopacek, the commander of the honor guard.
“He’s going to raise $12,000 to $15,000, and he is 15 years old and a sophomore in high school.” ‘Really?’ he asks, clearly skeptical.
The committed teenager, on the other hand, admitted that he wonders how he did it from time to time.
Dominique began by giving out information sheets, conducting interviews with the local radio station and newspaper, and setting up a table to sell it at the Olivia American Legion.
He expanded his original notion of what the monument might be after receiving more donations and buying more engraved pavers than he anticipated.
Dominique set a goal of $12,000 to $15,000 for his first fundraiser, but he exceeded that amount by around $77,000.
Dominique asked his scoutmaster, Mark Jurgensen, who served in Iraq, to wear his combat boots and leave 21 footsteps on the monument’s wet cement. Dominique comes from a long line of military service members.
Dominique’s proud father claimed that this performance was nothing out of the ordinary.
He remarked, “He’s one of those kinds of young people who like to make sure he doesn’t let anyone down and who works extremely hard at it.”
A crowd of individuals walked through the memorial during the dedication to read the 280 pavers engraved with the names of soldiers who served in the military, some of whom died never making it home.
The revered names were flanked by the American flag, Minnesota flag, and POW flag. A central headstone, bronze sculptures, and black granite benches were flanked by the flags.
During the dedication, Kim Wertish, whose son James died in Iraq on July 16, 2009, expressed gratitude to Dominique and embraced him.
James, along with fellow members of the Minnesota National Guard Dan Drevnick and Carlos Wilcox, are also commemorated on the veterans monument.
“Connections with the military have brought James accolades in many places, and that is very dear to us, but this is our hometown,” Kim stated.
Mark Hebig, who is listed on one of the pavers as a descendent of Alfred Hebig, drove two hours to attend the dedication.
He said, “I didn’t know him particularly well since he was killed in a vehicle accident when I was one year old. It’s been a long time, but you still remember.”
This veterans memorial is “something unique,” according to Aaron Russell, a scout district executive.
“We were trying to determine if there has been a project of this size in recent memory, with the money that was collected.” He said, “We couldn’t come up with anything even resembling it.”
Smiling, he remarked, “I’m an Eagle Scout myself, and I raised maybe $700 or $800 for the whole project at the time. It’s impossible for me to even comprehend.
Olivia’s Kubesh Park is home to the veterans memorial. The crossroads of Highways 71 and 212
Dominique began digging a shovel of earth in early May, prior to handing over the job to professional excavators, for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Dominique aims to one day expand the monument for their own Eagle Scout initiatives, having two younger siblings.
Dominique, thank you for this magnificent tribute to our troops.