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Inclusive memorials

Published (3/7/2008)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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The question isn’t who deserves recognition on the Veterans Court of Honor, but how much room there is for plaques on the low granite memorial located on the Capitol grounds.

Rep. A. Willie Dominguez (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF3240, which would authorize placement of a plaque that began as a way to memorialize Minnesota Mexican-American veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

Michael Medina, adjutant general of Mexican American Veterans Post 5 in St. Paul, told the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee March 5 that the organization came to Dominguez with the idea, and is willing to pay the bronze plaque’s $5,000 cost. He said the idea has expanded, and is now “a way to honor veterans of all nationalities and ethnic groups who have served in the military.”

Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar) is concerned that, with language specific to Mexican-Americans on the plaque, it could open the door for requests from other groups. “I worry about the folks who will want to say ‘Honduran-Americans’ or ‘Guatemalan-Americans.’ … We are setting a precedent right now for future plaques out there, so we need to be careful.”

Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) asked whether the wall could be built larger to accommodate requests, if more came forward.

Paul Mandell, principal planner for the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board, said there is room for 13 plaques and nine spots are filled. “It could be expanded; the possibilities are there. The question is where would it stop?” He said that when the idea of the Court of Honor was conceived it was to avoid requests for memorialization from different groups.

The bill was approved and now awaits action by the House.

A companion bill, SF3006, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Committee.

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