“It’s a Way To Give Veterans the Thanks They Deserve,” says Teen Who Builds Memorial
His whole town is grateful.
Sometimes a hero is someone who recognizes and honors someone else’s heroism. And being a hero has no age limits, as demonstrated by Minnesota teenager and Eagle Scout Dominique Claseman. As someone with loved ones in the service, he saw a need in his town for a veteran memorial. He wanted to provide a tangible way to show gratitude for their sacrifice. Through hard work, determination, and teamwork, he achieved astounding success. Keep reading to see how one teenager showed thanks to veterans everywhere.
Recognizing A Need
Dominique Claseman and his Eagle Scout troop were helping to clean up a local park in his Olivia, Minnesota, hometown when something struck the then-15-year-old. “Why isn’t there a veterans’ memorial here?” he wondered. Dominique has several family members who have served in the military. He knew it was the same for many other residents.
Suddenly, Dominique got an idea. He was in the process of choosing his Eagle Scout project. “I’m going to have a veterans’ memorial built,” he told his parents, Mark, who was also Dominique’s scoutmaster, and Wendy Jurgensen. “Great idea!” they exclaimed and signed on to help him.
After exploring veteran memorials in other towns, Dominique made a rough sketch of a design. His grandfather then made architectural drawings, which Dominique presented to the town’s mayor, Jon Hawkinson. Though skeptical a teenager could get such a lofty project completed, he was impressed and green-lighted the project.
Making It Happen
But Dominique would need to raise the funds. Dominique’s plans called for granite pavers to border the walkway up to the memorial. So he offered community members the opportunity to have the name of a living service member or veteran memorialized on a paver for $250. He sold 240 pavers.
Through the help of the local American Legion, word of mouth, and old-fashioned knocking on doors, the tally grew. Dominique ended up raising almost $77,000. On April 27, 2022, Dominique broke ground and the memorial — located in Kubesh Park, right off the main highway in town — was unveiled in a ceremony last Memorial Day.
The monument is almost 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide, and the product of many hands, including city workers and scout troop members.
Dominique’s dad put on the boots he wore while serving in Iraq and walked 21 steps in the wet cement of the walkway leading to the monument, symbolizing a 21-gun salute. The US flag, the Minnesota flag, and a POW flag fly over a headstone declaring the town’s thanks to all who have served. There are also granite benches for people to sit and reflect.
“I’ve been waiting 10 years for a town memorial,” one mother who lost her son in Iraq tearfully told Dominique. The memorial has a helmet and bench dedicated to him.
The entire town is proud and grateful to Dominique.
“I don’t think our veterans get honored enough for their sacrifice and for what they have done for our country overall,” the 17-year-old says. “This was a way to give these heroes the thanks they deserve.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.