A 15-year-old decided his hometown needed a veterans memorial, so he raised $77K to build one

Dominique Claseman of Olivia, Minnesota, came to Olivia City Council when he was 15 to discuss his plan to build a veterans’ memorial in his hometown. He even had architect drawings with him and had already selected the premises.

It was a huge project, but he was confident that people in the community would donate to something like this.

Two years later, his vision finally became a reality.

Greetings from Dominique Claseman

On Memorial Day, hundreds of people gathered for the dedication of the new Olivia Veterans Memorial, completed by Dominique as his Eagle Scout project just weeks before his 17th birthday.

“The memorial before you is a result of the generosity and support that I and the veterans of the community have received,” the young man said in his speech.

Ron Kopacek, who led the inauguration’s honor guard, was impressed with how Dominique pulled it off.

“Fifteen years old, sophomore in high school, he’s going to raise $12,000 to $15,000, we’re like, ‘What? For real?'”

In attendance during the dedication of Olivia's Veterans Memorial

But the dedicated teenager said he wonders how he sometimes even did it.

Dominique started the project by distributing flyers, conducting interviews with the local radio station and newspaper, and setting up a table to feature at Olivia American Legion events.

As donations and purchases of engraved pavers exceeded his expectations, he expanded his original concept of what the memorial could be.

Dominique’s original fundraising goal was $12,000-$15,000, but he ended up raising just over $77,000.

Dominique, who comes from a long line of military personnel, asked his father, Boy Scout leader Mark Jurgensen, who served in Iraq, to ​​wear his combat boots to mark 21 footprints on the memorial’s wet cement.

Dominique Claseman points to the pavers in the veterans' memorial

The proud dad said the achievement was not untypical for Dominique.

“He’s one of those kids who likes to make sure they don’t let anyone down, and he tries really hard,” he said.

During the dedication, a stream of people passed through the memorial to read the 280 cobblestones engraved with the names of people with connections to Olivia who served in the military, some of whom never made it home.

The American flag, Minnesota flag and POW flag fluttered above the honored name, a central headstone, bronze statues and black granite benches.

Kim Wertish, whose son James died in Iraq on July 16, 2009, thanked Dominique and hugged him tightly during the inauguration.

Kim Wertish hugs Dominique Claseman

James was killed along with two other members of the Minnesota National Guard, Dan Drevnick and Carlos Wilcox, whose names are also engraved on the veterans’ memorial.

“James has been honored with military ties in many cities and we care deeply about that, but this is our hometown,” Kim said.

Mark Hebig, whose father Alfred Hebig served in Korea and is listed on one of the paving stones, drove two hours to attend the dedication.

“I never knew him very well because he died in a car accident when I was 1 year old,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but you still remember.”

Aaron Russell, a District Chair in the Boy Scouts, said this veteran memorial was “something special.”

“We were trying to find out if there had been a project of this magnitude recently, particularly with the money raised. We couldn’t find or find anything even close,” he said.

A photo of the Veterans Memorial

He added, smiling, “I’m an Eagle Scout myself and raised maybe $700, $800 total for[his project]and I found that difficult at the time. I can’t even imagine it.”

The Veterans Memorial is located in Olivia’s Kubesh Park, near the intersection of US Highways 71 and 212.

In early May, Dominique dug up a shovel of earth during a groundbreaking ceremony before handing over the work to the assigned contractors.

Dominique, who has two younger brothers, hopes that one day they will expand the memorial for their own Eagle Scout projects.

Thank you Dominique for this beautiful memorial honoring our veterans. A 15-year-old decided his hometown needed a veterans memorial, so he raised $77K to build one

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