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Local groups discuss religious wording at proposed memorial

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The placement of Christian references on memorial plaques that could be included in a future veteran's memorial was the focus of discussion during a Wadena Park Advisory Board meeting this week.

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The Veteran's Memorial Committee and Wadena Park Advisory Board members raised differing views regarding the use of specific religious text, such as the word "Jesus," on plaques at the Veteran's Memorial, which is planned to be constructed within Sunnybrook Park.

During a planning presentation in Wednesday's park advisory meeting, David Ludovisse, speaking on behalf of the Veteran's Memorial Committee, said the group may seek a different location to build the memorial if references to Christianity are removed by the city council or a compromise cannot be reached.

Park Board Member Bob Zosel also spoke during the meeting. He said it was necessary to consider veterans of all beliefs when establishing words to use on the planned plaques.

"We felt that being that this is a memorial for all veterans, and that it's in a city park, that the language there noting Jesus Christ was maybe a little inappropriate for that setting," Zosel said.

Zosel also said references to a specific religion may be perfectly acceptable in a private setting, such as the local V.F.W.

Ludovisse responded by speaking from his own experience of serving in the military. He said devotion to God was an essential part of military service, since most soldiers turn to faith in order to get them through combat.

"I guess the old verbiage of 'There are no atheists in a foxhole' holds true," he said.

There were multiple possible solutions to the impasse put forward during the meeting. Ultimately Ludovisse suggested the park board create a draft that it felt was more suitable, an offer taken up by Zosel.

Park board members also began planning a future meeting with members of the Veterans Committee, during which matters would be discussed further.

Another idea suggested when addressing the disagreement included consulting with the Wadena Ministerial Association, as well as a chaplain from the local National Guard unit.

Park Board Secretary Ron Bucholz said the religious wording issue needs be resolved before the park board seeks final approval of the project from the Wadena City Council.

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