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Fundraisers work to build a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Zimmerman

Feb 10 2023
Richard Reeve | KSTP

Zimmerman, Minnesota, is a patriotic town.

“We have to acknowledge veterans who have done the ultimate sacrifice, who have lost their lives,” says Dawn Olsen, visiting from Princeton.

American flags fly everywhere, and there is pride for those who’ve served.

“Until you’ve had that knock on the door, and those uniformed men there, it’s just life-changing,” declares Stacey Burnham, a Gold Star mother.

At American Legion Post 560, we met Olsen and Burnham, two women on a mission to build a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument here to honor relatives of service members who have passed away.

For Burnham, the idea was personal. Just over five years ago, her daughter Nicole, a U.S. Army private, died by suicide.

Burnham, from Andover, says she’s still in the healing process.

“So on Jan. 26, 2018, our family became a member of the Gold Star family — that is, when you lose somebody in service,” she says. “I’m not consumed by sadness. It’s time to remember the happy times. This monument can be a legacy to anybody’s loved one.”

At a walk in Anoka to honor veterans who’ve died by suicide, Burnham and Olsen met — and bonded — over the idea of a monument.

With designing help from the Woody Williams Foundation, a Kentucky nonprofit, the Zimmerman monument will be similar to one already installed in Mantorville, near Rochester.

It will include a silhouette of a saluting service member and will have four panels with etched themes labeled “homeland,” “family,” “patriot” and “service.”

“I would like families that have lost loved ones to come there and remember their son or their daughter,” Olsen notes. “It’s a place for them to go and cherish their loved ones.”

The two women are hoping to install the memorial at Zimmerman Legion Park.

They say they’ve raised about $48,000 in funding so far, with a goal of $105,000.

The pair hope the monument can be completed by June 2024.

Upon completion, the Zimmerman location will be the second Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Minnesota.

Burnham emphasizes the structure will honor all veterans and their families.

“This is not a memorial to Nicole,” she declares. “This monument represents everyone, all those that didn’t come home. Whether they were away at war, whether it was an illness or an accident or suicide. They all deserve to be honored and remembered and cherished.”

You can find out more about the Zimmerman monument here.