A special groundbreaking and flag-raising ceremony was hosted Oct. 11 at the site of the Veterans Memorial, positioned along the outfield fences of the Vergas baseball diamond.
Vergas Mayor Julie Bruhn is speaking in the foreground. Background, from left, Dennis Breitzman, Doug Safer, John Lotzer, Henry Ditterich, Lyle Krieg, and Pam Krieg.
“There are many ways veterans are honored. I feel the most enduring commemorative is a constructed memorial. It has a majestic appearance, it inspires us, it serves as a reminder of the sacrifice for our freedom, and it stands tall as an everlasting tribute,” said Mayor Bruhn at the October flag-raising.
An artist rendition of the Vergas Veterans Memorial Park, which is expected be completed—including the granite pillars and benches—for a June 11 Flag Day opening ceremony in 2022.
World War II veteran Alwyn Martinson was among the veterans honored at groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Veterans Memorial Park in Vergas. He served in the Pacific in the Navy. He was a lifelong dairy farmer in the Spirit Lake area.
he large crowd joined for the Pledge of Allegiance Oct. 11, at a special groundbreaking and flag-raising ceremony at the Vergas Veterans Memorial Park.
Veterans and volunteers helped dedicate the park with a symbolic groundbreaking using colorful red, white and blue shovels.

Even smallest area ‘villages’ like Vergas, Dent, Erhard pay tribute to those who served with vet monuments

Veterans are the beneficiaries of a whole lotta lovin’ in the greater Pelican lakes area. 

New veteran memorial projects have been successful in Erhard and, in Vergas, well underway. Meanwhile, in Pelican Rapids, the longstanding memorial anchors the corner of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5252 parking lot and main street. 

The Dent American Legion Post 148 also led the charge to create a handsome memorial in the city park. In fact, the Dent Legion ran out of space on its pillars for etched names of veterans, so they are planning on adding a few more. 

The Vergas campaign started out strong about a year ago. 

“The first thing we had to do is find a location and then we started raising money, and about that time, COVID showed up,” said Vietnam veteran Henry Ditterich. “It was hard to go around asking for money during the pandemic. If it weren’t for a few hiccups, we’d probably have it done by now.”

A groundbreaking and flag-raising was hosted at the Vergas site Oct. 11, hosted by the Ditterich and the four other committee members: Lyle Krieg, John Lotzer, Doug Safar, and Dennis Breitzman. Vergas does not have a formal veterans organization in town, but the Vergas Lions Club has been the umbrella organization behind the project. 

“There are many ways veterans are honored,” Vergas Mayor Julie Bruhn told the audience at the Oct. 11 event. “I feel the most enduring commemorative is a constructed memorial. It has a majestic appearance, it inspires us, it serves as a reminder of the sacrifice for our freedom, and it stands tall as an everlasting tribute.”

Looking ahead to Flag Day, June 11, 2022, the crew expects to have the granite work done, and most of the work complete for an opening ceremony, said Ditterich. 

The group aims to raise about $100,000, which would provide enough in the bank for some ongoing maintenance and flag replacement, said Ditterich, who is a member of the Dent Legion, the Pelican VFW, and the Vergas Lions. 

 The first phase of the memorial project is mostly complete: ornate concrete pads, walks, and flagpoles are in place.

At the Oct. 11 event, flags were raised on the seven poles, including the U.S. flag, the Minnesota state flag, the prisoner of war/missing in action flag, and flags from the five traditional armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Room is available for a Space Force flag pole.

“Since we had the groundbreaking, and folks can see it along the road, everybody has really been supportive,” said Ditterich. In fact, the Vergas Memorial was featured in a segment on Prairie Public television. 

A crowd of nearly 100 were on hand Oct. 11 for the flag-raising. 

“As the flags are raised I’m reminded of a quote by an unknown author that has always resonated with me,” said Vergas Mayor Bruhn. “Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it—it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it, and I would add that it continues to fly because of the service of our veterans.”

As a nurse who served veterans with the Veterans Health Administration for close to 40 years, Mayor Bruhn feels especially connected to the memorial project. 

“The memorial should not only remind us of the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans, it should prompt us to take the time to learn the names of the veterans and their stories,” Bruhn added. “Stories of those who made it home and stories of those who didn’t.”

 Those comments hit home for Henry Ditterich, who lost classmate Bill Carlson in the Vietnam conflict. Ditterich graduated from Pelican Rapids High School in 1966, and was drafted in 1968. Five months into his tour, infantryman Ditterich took a gunshot in his left shoulder in the mountain jungles of Vietnam. 

Classmate Carlson, Pelican grad 1967, was less fortunate. He was killed in action in Vietnam, and his name is etched in stone at the Pelican VFW memorial. 

Ditterich spent more than three months in the hospital. Upon recovery, he was given a choice: Go back to duty in Vietnam, or Korea. He chose Korea. As a wounded soldier, Ditterich was awarded the “Purple Heart” medal. 

Ditterich and his wife Mary (Saurer), a 1969 Pelican graduate, continue have many connections in the Pelican and Vergas areas. 

Vergas Veteran Memorial campaign aims at $100,000

The Vergas veteran memorial committee is encouraging  individuals and businesses to come through with donations to help meet that $100,000 goal.

West Central Initiative, a Fergus Falls-based foundation that serves nine counties, including Otter Tail and Becker, is fiscal agent for donations, which are tax deductible.     

To donate, make your check payable to WCI, and write Vergas Veterans Memorial on the memo line. Mail to West Central Initiative, P.O. Box 318, Fergus Falls, MN, 56538-0318.

Drop off a payment at the City of Vergas office.

Online donations can be made at www.wcif.org/VVM

Members of the organizing committee are all Vietnam-era veterans: 

Lyle Krieg (701-238-1575); John Lotzer (701-680-9189); Henry Ditterich (320-226-3727); Dennis Breitzman (701-202-6337); and Doug Safar (218-201-2554).