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Local group working to honor veterans for Memorial Day

"Very proud of him, 16 years is a long time, and now we see this," Mary Wento said of her son James, who was killed in a training accident in 2021.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — For veteran Mary Wento, it's a somber day as volunteers place flags on the graves of fallen service members at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

"It hurts, people don't understand what they gave," said Wento. "My son James - he was a staff sergeant and he served 16 years."

His grave now sits at Fort Snelling after he was killed in a training accident overseas in 2021.

"I haven't even started grieving yet," she said.

"I served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, I was wounded in combat," said Michael Dardis.

Like Mary, Dardis is a veteran, who has now made it his mission to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Dardis is the president of Bloomington Remembers Veterans, which is fundraising to build a new memorial on the east lawn of the City's Civic Plaza. It will be one of the first of its kind featuring new technology, along with mental health resources for veterans and all who visit.

Along the landscape barrier will be six arching threads, each representing a branch of the military. 

Symbolic metal dog tags identifying Bloomington Veterans will name the serviceman or woman, their service branch and years of service, and some additional information you wouldn’t expect to find at a memorial. 

Each dog tag will have a QR code etched into it that leads people who take a picture of it with their phones to a special tribute website.

"There's a feeling I have for veterans and the sacrifice, and that's reflected in the design," said Dardis. "That's what this memorial is all about regardless of the war, we want your service to be recognized."

Back at Fort Snelling, volunteers placed American flags at the graves of fallen service members ahead of Memorial Day.

"Very proud of him, 16 years is a long time, and now we see this," said Mary Wento.

It's a time to remember and celebrate the sacrifices of the men and women who have served, and their families. "I'm not the only mother who lost their child, but today is the day you say thank you for what you served, my heart goes out to all of these people and their families," she said.

To learn more about Flags for Fort Snelling, visit the link here

Learn more about donating or volunteering for the project at BloomingtonVeteransMemorial.org, or by contacting Mike Dardis, Vice President of Bloomington Remembers Veterans Inc. He can be reached at 952-888-3479 or via e-mail at m1dardis@hotmail.com.

The organizers hope to have the memorial in place by the Fall of 2024. 

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