The Osceola Village board has officially designated the newly completed veterans memorial just east of downtown Osceola as the St. Croix River Valley Veterans Park.
Local resident and Osceola schoolteacher John Jenkins began the project over a decade ago, but after his death in 2016 Larry Jepsen took the reins. Jepsen and a team of other volunteers completed the project earlier this month, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. A ceremony was held on the anniversary to commemorate the memorial, and the village board made the official dedication at their most recent meeting.
“It was a long process, being started by John Jenkins and finished by Larry Jepsen,” said board member Deb Rose. “Like every great baseball team, you need a great starter and a great closer. And we were fortunate to have that. This is something that’s been going for a long time and it fits very well where it is. Just the number of people involved that got it from start to finish is great.”
Jenkins began thinking about the project shortly after September 2001.
“Mr. Jenkins, being a history teacher, I was so surprised at the passion that came out of him to make sure this was going to happen,” said board member Van Burch. “The last few times I visited him in the nursing home he talked about it a lot, and he knew it was going to happen. It was just going to be a matter of the right people in the right place at the right time. He couldn’t carry the torch anymore. It was really hard to see someone that has these dreams and aspirations suddenly fade out of the glad to see it happen, and it’s exactly what we needed in town.”
Burch went on to say he hopes the memorial is a good reminder of how important it is to keep veterans organizations going in Osceola.
“We have a hard time keeping a legion in town, we have a hard time keeping a VFW in town,” he said. “Young people are not interested as much as we would think to be members of a Legion or a VFW. The dynamics of those groups have changed a lot. And with Osceola growing, this memorial was fitting to reflect on all the names that are on those stones.”