Quartet of 1960s-era veterans, led by Gene Nygaard, to honor all who served

An “All Veterans” flag memorial is being planned by a group of veterans, in the Erhard parks. Leading the campaign, Gene Nygaard at far right. Joining him on the committee, from left, Ole Nelson, Ole Anderson and Ron Stadum.

Flags will fly over the Erhard 4th of July festivities this summer –at least a half dozen of them.

A veterans memorial will be constructed in the Erhard city park area, 42 feet in length with a row of flagpoles reaching to the sky.

The public is invited to purchase pavers, in honor of a family member or friend, who is a veteran of the Armed Forces, Guard and Reserves.

Leading the effort is Gene Nygaard, himself a U.S. Air Force veteran from 1959-1961 and a proud Erhardian. He’s assembled a capable squad of assistants, all military veterans, including Ron Stadum and a pair of Ole’s–Ole Anderson and Ole Nelson.

“We don’t have anything in town, and this is something I’ve wanted to do–and this is the time,” said the 75 year old with deep roots in the area. Nygaard is a graduate of School District 137, the old country school that was located 11 miles east of Erhard near Star Lake. He completed 8th
grade, and that’s as far as he went with classroom schooling–not uncommon for country lads of the era.

With numerous connections to the armed services, Nygaard has plenty of motivation–and will be purchasing several blocks to honor veterans in his family.

• There’s uncle Herbert Nygaard, who was “shot up pretty bad” in World War II, and lived his life with a steel plate in his head–and unable to qualify for a drivers license. He’s buried in the South Lake Lida cemetery.

• His brothers in law Clarence and Vernon Flath, both gone now, who were Korean War era veterans.

• And, there’s also his son, Tom Nygaard, who served 20 years in the Army–including a six-year stint at the White House.

More than two dozen pavers have already been sold, at $100 a piece–with all proceeds going toward the memorial.

“It is a memorial to all veterans. If a family member wants to honor a parent, uncle or brother,” said Nygaard.

Vietnam veterans are of special interest to Nygaard. “A lot of those during Vietnam were never recognized.”

Ole Anderson will be among the “Nam” guys. The Army veteran was in Vietnam in 1964, one of the earliest American soldiers to serve–before the conflict heated up in 1966.

“There were 16,000 of us when I got there; and 60,000 when I left,” recalled Anderson, a 1961 Pelican Rapids High School graduate.

The other Ole on the committee is a 1962 Rothsay graduate, who served in the Army from 1962-1965, including a tour in Germany. Nelson will be honoring his uncle Lonnie Cranston–one of the last casualties of the Korean War, who was killed the very day the North-South Korea truce was signed.

Ron Stadum represents the sailors on the Erhard memorial committee. The 1964 Pelican graduate served in the Navy from 1964-68.

By the time the streets of Erhard fill for the 4th of July festival, expect to see at least six flags: Old Glory, and a flag for each branch of the service. Plus a POW-MIA flag, and possibly a Minnesota State flag.

The poles will be set in a straight line, along the 42 foot stretch of ground-which has already been tilled and prepared, just west of the ball diamond. Paver blocks will be placed on each side of the row of flags.

Nygaard is hoping to raise enough funds for four benches. Fergus Monument is working with him on the engraving.

For information on the Erhard All Veterans Memorial, contact Nygaard at 218-842-5131 or 701-793-7917.