87 stones, 87 snippets of military families’ lives

| June 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

Jodene Marquis (left) and Teri Popp of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata read a quote on a stone at the Military Family Tribute in St. Paul on the State Capitol Mall. Popp is the president and Marquis the volunteer coordinator of the Military Family Tribute, which will have a dedication ceremony from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 13. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

“Well, I’ve got some bad news you might not want to know. I’ve been shot.”

A soldier from Washington County wrote the sentences above in a letter back home in 1968.

They’re just a snippet of his letter, similar to 86 other snippets from military personnel to their families, or from their families to them, that are etched in stones on the mall in front of the Minnesota State Capitol.

There’s a stone representing every county in the mall’s newest monument, the Minnesota Military Family Tribute, which will be formally dedicated June 13. Open to the public and free of charge, the 10 a.m. dedication will be followed by entertainment with country music artist Rockie Lynne and The Steele Family until 2 p.m.

Bill and Teri Popp, members of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata, have led the effort to have the families of military personnel recognized for what they go through while a loved one is in the service.

“The military people all choose to serve,” Teri explained, “but the family is for all intents and purposes drafted.

“This is a small way to recognize the family for the sacrifices they make,” she said. “The tribute is a thank you to the families for their service.”

Story Stones

Quotations from the State Capitol Mall, Minnesota Military Family Tribute

“Your Victory Garden must have been productive . . . just save us some sweet pickles.”
1942 Faribault County

“Send me some woolen socks, a sweater and gloves. I’m OK, from Stalag 11.”
1943 Pennington County

“We are all patiently waiting for your arrival
. . . It’s hard being mother, father, housewife and referee.”
1988 Stevens County

The tribute has been seven years in the making. After Bill Popp was asked to speak at a welcome-back event for military personnel, “All the vets thanked him for expressing gratitude to their families,” Teri recalled, and the idea for a permanent recognition of military families was born.

Getting state approval was a two-year process; Minneapolis-based HGA won the bid to create the tribute.

The Popps and a committee of some 50 others — including many St. Bartholomew parishioners — raised $1.2 million. Five years later, the stones sit just east of the veteran’s building on the State Capitol campus, sharing funny, serious and heartwarming slices of the lives of military families.

St. Bart parishioners continue to be involved in the tribute. Jodene Marquis, for example, who has chaired the parish’s successful Images of Spring gala fundraiser, is the volunteer coordinator of the June 13 event.

Among the speakers at the dedication will be local meteorologist Paul Douglas, who with his wife, Laurie Kruhoeffer, will represent “Blue Star” families, families with an active service member. Their son, Lt. J.G. Brett Kruhoeffer, a graduate of Holy Family High School in Victoria and the U.S. Naval Academy, is a naval officer and helicopter pilot.

Jearlyn Steele, who rearranged her schedule to take part in the dedication ceremony, will perform the National Anthem. The Lost Wheels, a local band, will also be debuting a song written just for the tribute dedication.

Teri Popp said she appreciated that the words on the stones are “representative of every-day things people wrote back and forth.” A juried process was used to select which items from the military families’ correspondence would appear on the Story Stones, she said. “They come from every different aspect of life and from all ages. I think they could touch every family’s heart.”

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