As the nation pays homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice this Memorial Day weekend, we take a look at how our state has etched their sacrifice in stone and steel at art installations and memorials across the State Capitol Mall in St. Paul.
Minnesota WWII Veterans Memorial & Court of Honor
The Minnesota WWII memorial stands opposite the pearly whites of the state capitol building and is flanked on either side by the Court of Honor which emphasizes Minnesota's military sacrifices across a range of conflicts from the Spanish-American War to Vietnam.
The Capitol Mall's largest military memorial was dedicated in June of 2007.
USS Ward Gun
On the west side of the Veterans Service Building stands a relic of WWII, a deck gun from the USS Ward, a Wickes-class destroyer that served, in part, during the Dec. 7 Attack on Pearl Harbor.
According to the U.S. Navy, the Ward fired the first shot against Japan in WWII when the decades-old relic sunk a Japanese submarine making its way into the harbor prior to the air attack that claimed the lives of over 2,000 servicemembers and 68 civilians, while wounding many more.
The gun was gifted by the Navy to Minnesota in 1958 to honor the Minnesota reservists who manned the ship on a date that shall forever live in infamy.
Minnesota Korean War Veterans Memorial
East of the capitol's WWII memorial, a lone U.S. soldier paces toward a monolithic silhouette of servicemembers lost in the line of duty during the Korean War.
The installation pays homage to the over 700 Minnesotans who lost their lives during armed conflict on the peninsula, far from home. Their names are etched in small columns that encircle the memorial.
According to the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board (CAAPB), the site was dedicated on Sept. 18, 1998.
Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial
On the western flank of the WWII museum, 68,000 granite tiles honor the number of Minnesotans who served in Vietnam, while darkened tiles and a western dark, granite wall represent and name the fallen.
The 56-foot by 30-foot grid of tiles is fashioned into the shape of Minnesota, alongside a pool in the shape of Lake Superior.
According to the CAAPB, the Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial was funded by a combination of state bonds and private donations — unveiled on Sept. 26, 1992.
Special Forces in Laos Memorial
A recent addition to the Capitol Grounds commemorates the service of over 19,000 Hmong, Lao and other combat veterans — along with their American advisors, trainers and volunteers — who served during the "Secret War" in Laos, near Northern Vietnam, from 1961 to 1975.
Special Guerilla Units (SGUs) were soldiers who served secretly during a CIA operation during the Vietnam War, in areas where U.S. troops were unable to access due to a 1954 Geneva Accord.
The Special Forces in Laos Memorial was dedicated on June 11, 2016.
Monument to the Living
Also on the western edge of the Veterans Service Building, adjacent to the Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial, is the 3.5-meter tall "Monument to the Living," described as a "nineteen-year-old soldier in full combat gear, asking a question..." but we'll leave its abstract interpretation up to you when you visit it for yourself.
The statue is made of hammered steel and was dedicated on May 22, 1982.
Emergency First Responder Memorials:
The Capitol Grounds are home to more memorials than we were able to include in this article, but most notably to the many peace officers and firefighters who have lost their lives in the service of their communities. You can find some of them below.
Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial
A ring of weathered steel surrounds a man and girl made of bronze. A Minnesota firefighter hoists a young girl along a skyward ladder in memory of the hundreds of Minnesota firefighters who have lost their lives in the service of their communities.
According to the CAAPB, the statue was originally located at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, before being relocated to the state capitol.
The Minnesota Fallen Firefighters Memorial was dedicated on Sept. 30, 2012.
Described as a "living monument," the names of the fallen are inscribed along the columns, with room for additional engravings in the future.
Peace Officers Memorial
The Peace Officers Memorial lies east of a parking lot on the eastern edge of the Veterans Service Building, along West 12th Street.
A columned approach welcomes memorial-goers to honor the Minnesota police officers who gave their lives in the line of duty, dating back to the death of St. Paul Police Officer Daniel O'Connell on May 18, 1882.
The site was dedicated in June of 1995.