The unveiling of the new Veterans Memorial at Perham Village Cemetery on Monday was a momentous occasion for the community.
The memorial is a well-done tribute to all the local servicemen and women who have served in the Armed Forces, and it's the first of its kind in Perham.
In my view, the $9,000 the community pulled together for this project is quite possibly the best $9,000 Perham has ever spent.
Inscribed with the words, "In honor and in memory of those men and women who protect our freedom," a stone monument stands an impressive 10-feet tall; a lasting symbol of strength, liberty and sacrifice. Emblems for the five branches of the military - Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines - are engraved in the stone.
There are also two specially-designed benches that resemble American flags, decorative flowers and a paved area in front, making the memorial a place where people can sit, pray, reflect, remember and pay homage to all those who have served our country in the past, and who serve today.
Like the memorial itself, the unveiling event was thoughtful and appropriate. Featuring a flag ceremony, TAPS, guest speakers and a 21-dove release, it was also timed out well, coinciding with Memorial Day.
A sizable audience showed up to mark the occasion, including a local troop of Boy Scouts who represented their organization well, saluting at all the right moments. Others in the crowd, with hands on their hearts, cried as the ceremony unfolded.
I couldn't help but get emotional myself, recalling all-too-clearly how I felt two years ago when both my younger brothers were fighting the war in Afghanistan; how I'd lay awake at night feeling worried and helpless.
I had to swallow down a lump in my throat Monday as I thought of the millions of other people like me - past and present - who have loved a soldier; who know what it feels like to have that strange mix of fear and pride eating away at your gut.
Far too many of these people have not been as fortunate as my family and I have been - we got to celebrate our soldiers' return home.
"This is a very sacred day," said Pastor Rob Pesola of the United Methodist Church, who gave his blessing at the unveiling ceremony. "The cost of freedom remains high, but we continue to pay it. This memorial was built to remember... those who have fought, and those who currently fight. Everyone among us today owes (them) a supreme debt."
As Schoeneberger Funeral Home's Darla Medeck-Johnson said at the start of the ceremony, "Freedom isn't free."
You can't put a price on human sacrifice. The patience, dedication, bravery, loyalty, and blood, sweat and tears of our military members and their loved ones is priceless.
So is providing a meaningful place for people to go to show their respect for that.
Perham now has such a place. The community should be proud.
To all those who had a hand in making the memorial a reality, a salute to you.