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Local View: Project to honor veterans needs public's support

Recently, I had a conversation with artist Wayne Williams, who created the sculpture in the Veterans Garden in Rochester, N.Y., of a Vietnam-era soldier walking into a black granite wall. I was very curious about his mindset when creating this very powerful sculpture. What was the broader concept behind this very striking piece?

John MarshallI also am writing this to express my opinion that it's important to support a project to create a similar monument in St. Louis County to honor Vietnam War veterans here afflicted by Agent Orange.

As reported by the News Tribune in January, the local project began with the tragedy of a Vietnam veteran diagnosed with a rare and terminal cancer. His son, in his grief, was looking at monuments online that honor veterans like his father, who was given a life-altering diagnosis that would reverberate throughout the entire family. Through his search, the son, Andy Werner, determined that "Vietnam Veteran Walking into Wall," as the sculpture here would be known, would be the most representative way of honoring his father and all veterans told their lives would be exponentially shortened because of their military service.

When Wayne created his monument, there were no specific concepts behind its creation, he told me. Initially, it was perceived as an infantry soldier of the period walking into the "unknown" or into battle. It also was thought that the soldier was walking into eternity to meet his brothers- and sisters-in-arms who had died on the battlefield. Later it was perceived to honor the more than 2.7 million Vietnam veterans who were exposed to deadly dioxins (Agent Orange) and who became very ill early in life or who died prematurely.

Many conclusions or interpretations may be drawn by this incredible monument and the similar version that eventually will be going into our state veterans cemetery off U.S. Highway 53 south of Pike Lake in Grand Lake Township.

However, one thing is certain: The work will belong to every citizen in the state of Minnesota and each will draw his or her own opinion of what the monument means to them. It truly will be an all-encompassing monument.

Monuments are created to remind us of something. They are permanent reminders of people, things, or events that affected all of us in some way, directly or indirectly. They can be positive reminders or reminders of things we ought not do, or ought reflect on before doing, again. They are healing for many and places to pay homage for others.

Andy Werner and I need the support of the community to make this monument a reality. We have momentum and enough commitments to complete more than half of the project. We can get even closer to our goal via a fundraising dinner on April 29.


What: A fundraising dinner and silent auction to help create "Vietnam Veteran Walking into Wall,” a sculpture and memorial monument planned for the state veterans cemetery off U.S. Highway 53 south of Pike Lake in Grand Lake Township

When: Saturday, April 29, with a social hour at 4:30 p.m. and dinner at 5:30 p.m.

Where: American Legion in West Duluth, 5814 Grand Ave.

Keynote speaker: Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito will speak immediately after the dinner

Tickets: $50 per person and may be purchased at the American Legion or by calling John Marshall at (218) 348-2929; donations to the silent auction and other donations also are being accepted 


Richard Margolis /

Prints and posters of Wayne Williams' sculpture in Rochester, N.Y., are available by emailing photographer Richard Margolis. Money is being raised to create a similar monument in St. Louis County.

John Marshall of Duluth served in the 41st Infantry Regiment in Iraq and is captain of the Duluth Honor Guard.