History & Timeline of Soldiers Field and Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial
In 1927, the William T. McCoy Post #92 of the American Legion of Rochester MN, bought property from Dr. Graham for $30,000, which then became officially known as Soldiers Memorial Field.
The City of Rochester subsequently purchased it from Post #92 with stipulations as to its use.
The City accepted the Legion’s over-all plan to develop this property as a public park with recreational facilities for our youth that would encourage amateur athletics and would be dedicated to soldiers of all wars.
In 1930, additional lots were bought from William and Kathleen Fitzgerald for $1.00. In February of 1936, the American Legion Post #92, gave the Park Commissioners $32,500 to construct a bathhouse and swimming pool at Soldiers Field.
In 1943, more lots were bought from Kathleen Fitzgerald for $1,250.
On August 12, 1951, the Eagle at the entrance was unveiled at a ceremony dedicating the recreational area to the Youth of Olmsted County.
In 1965, the Vietnam War had been going on for quite some time. Support for our sons and daughters in that far away land was eroding rapidly. Demonstrations at home and abroad were continuing at an alarming rate. Many factors, including our Vietnam War strategy, put our troops in a position where we could not win.
When our heroes who answered their country’s call arrived back in the United States, they were treated shamefully by many of the very people they were serving. It was a sad time in the history of our country.
In 1965, the Rochester Jaycees spearheaded the adoption of the 173d Airborne Brigade. This project was designed to show our support for those who were serving their country so far away from home. This quickly became a citywide project. Jaycees, nurses, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the entire city became involved. Items that could be used for health and cleanliness were collected, filling two train boxcars for shipment to Vietnam and the 173d. Rochester was the second city in the nation to show support for our Vietnam Veterans by adopting a Vietnam fighting unit.
It was not until the 173d returned to Rochester for their annual reunion in 1995 that Rochester found out how important the adoption was some 30 years earlier. Rochester gave the returning 173d the heroes’ welcome that they so richly deserved. They participated in the Rochesterfest parade and all along the parade route the entire city stood and honored those returning heroes.
The Soldiers Field Memorial that you see today is the result of the seed planted in 1965 that started to grow in 1995. The original idea to have a Memorial plaque honoring the 173d grew to include every significant conflict from our Civil War to the Gulf War.
For additional information see the “Story of the 173d Air Borne Brigade (SEP)” on the Memorial Wall.
The first Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial committee was selected by former Jaycees, Wayne Stillman and Wayne Arnold, including recommendations made by Mayor Chuck Hazama. The candidates were approved by the City Council in October 1995.
View Memorial Committee Original Members
Doris Amundsen: Park Board
Wayne Arnold: CPA and Jaycee member during the 173d’s adoption
Richard Brehmer: Architect and Jaycee member during the 173rd’s adoption
Harry Kerr: Olmsted Country Deputy, VFW member, and decorated veteran
Ed Merrell: Olmsted County History Center
Floyd Riester: Chairman of the 173rd’s Rochester reunion
Wayne Stillman: Business owner/Jaycee member during the 173rd’s adoption
Louis Vetsch: Jaycee’s 1995 President
Dave Senjem: Councilman and former Jaycee
Since 1995, thousands of unpaid volunteer hours were spent planning, researching, fund raising, and finally the actual construction. This effort, together with the public’s generous support, made this Memorial possible.
Chairman Wayne Stillman exemplifies the volunteer’s commitment, dedication, and faith in this project. From its inception, he kept the flame burning when few thought that this dream was possible. Although he suffered a life-threatening fight with cancer, he remained the project’s driving force.
Meet our Development Team
General Chairman: Wayne Stillman*
Co- Chairman, Secretary/Treasurer: Wayne Arnold
Co-Chairman Construction: Bob DeWitz*
Walk of Remembrance Paver Sales: Ken Zubay* Rod Lee, Eve Klampe, Bob Sheridan
Dedication Program: Harry Kerr*, Floyd Riester
Major Sponsor Sales: Glenn Miller*, Craig Q. Fisher
Project Awareness: Bob Sheridan*
Wall Graphics Research: Rod Lee*, Harold Perry, Merle Peterson, Pauline Krieger, Bob Sheridan, Chris Stapleton, Jeanette Hinds
Medallion, Buttons, & Pins: Ken Zubay*, Abbott “By Heck” Hoecker (design), Barbara Hight Randall (procurement/sales)
Dedication Brochure: Ken Zubay* – Editor
Button & Pin Sales: Eve Klampe*, Rod Lee, Ken Zubay
History: Ed Merrell*
Military Club Liaison: Harry Kerr*, Floyd Riester
Park Department Liaison: Denny Stotz*
Paver Installation: Lonnie Hebl*, Mark Allen, Merle Peterson, Sentence to Serve Team
Sentence to Serve Program: Lonnie Hebl
Project Design: Leslie Rivas (designer), Bob De Witz, Jeff Anderson
Religious Liaison: Rev. Jerry Barnhart
Jaycee Representative: Steve Beilby
City Government Liaison: Dave Senjem
Wall of Remembrance: Ray Sibley*, Harry Kerr, Pat Lahey, Mike Walsh
Web Site Coordinator: Ken Zubay*, Wayne Herivel
The Soldiers Field Memorial “Charge”
In October 1995, a Committee was presented to Mayor Hazama and after discussion, additional members were added. This committee was then presented to and approved by the City Council. A non-profit corporation was then formed under Section 501C3 of the IRS Code to enable tax-deductible contributions.
The committee determined that the Soldiers Field Memorial charge would be:
- Dedicated to all veterans for their service in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
- Display the names of service men and women who perished as the result of injuries sustained in the service. Names of the deceased shall be from Southeast Minnesota within a 50-mile radius of Rochester. Names will be added as received and approved by the screening committee.
- Include information regarding the nature of each significant conflict, i.e. Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and other conflicts to-date.
- Show graphic scenes from the Civil War to the Gulf War
- Include a historic perspective from the United States point of view illustrating the significance that war has played in the development of our country.
- Contain flags of the six service branches, the POW/MIA flag, the Minnesota State flag, and the American flag.
- Include and maintain the existing monument structure honoring veterans of all wars and dedicated to the youth of Olmsted County.
- Include a reflective area contain 50 trees (one per state).
- The story of Rochester’s connection to the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
- Names of donors for the construction and maintenance of the memorial will be recognized.