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A new Gold Star families memorial monument is unveiled in Zimmerman

Jun 08 2024
Richard Reeve | KSTP.com

Flowers, salutes, and words of duty, honor, and sacrifice — all part of the unveiling of a new Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Zimmerman.

“It’s for the families left behind,” says Paul McCormick, a U.S. Navy Veteran.

The unveiling Saturday came after a year-and-a-half of planning — a way to honor relatives of service members who have passed away.

“They deserve to come here in the most beautiful place ever, and just pay tribute to their loved ones,” explains Dawn Olsen, of Zimmerman.

Olsen and Stacey Burnham had been talking about a monument to honor Gold Star families since early 2023.

Those conversations came after Burnham’s daughter Nicole, a U.S. Army private, died by suicide in 2018.

She was just 21 years old.

“I guess until you’ve had that knock on the door and those uniformed men there, it’s just life changing,” Burnham told us in February 2023. “Our family became a member of the Gold Star family, and that is when you lose somebody in service.”

Through private and community donations, the two women raised $180,000 for the project.

The monument’s granite panels are etched with four themes: ‘homeland,’ ‘family,’ ‘patriot,’ and ‘sacrifice.’

It was designed with the help of the Woody Williams Foundation, a Kentucky non-profit.

The Zimmerman memorial is only one of two Gold Star Memorial Monuments in Minnesota.

The other is in Mantorville, outside Rochester.

“Families that have lost a service member while in service or because of their service, they have a place to come and reflect,” notes Bob Lundgren, a U.S. Army Veteran.

Zimmerman is a tight knit, patriotic community, with a population of about 6,800.

Organizers say between 300 and 400 people attended the unveiling ceremony.

Veterans, families, the young and the old, were all there.

“My grandmother was technically the first Gold Star mother from World War II out of Zimmerman,” McCormick says.

He shared with 5 Eyewitness News several photos of his Uncle John—‘Jackie’ to his family.

The 20-year-old was killed on D-Day, when his plane was shot down over Normandy.

McCormick says he’s thinking a lot about his uncle this weekend — and about others who’ve lost loved ones.

“The memorial is more about the family,” he says. “The ones that are left behind, the ones who have to deal with the loss.”

Olsen’s family has seen loss as well.

Her mother-in-law learned her brother had been killed the day she graduated from high school.

Olsen explains he died in a bunker during the Korean War when he was just 19.

She hopes the memorial will be a place of healing for everyone, but especially family members of those who served.

“This is for them,” Olsen says. “This is for their families. They deserve this monument.”