Saint Paul, MN

The Story Behind St. Paul's "Monument to the Living"

Matt Reicher

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"Monument to the Living" statueMatt Reicher

On May 22, 1982, only days before Memorial Day, the “Monument to the Living” statue was unveiled on the Capitol Mall in St. Paul. It was created by Vietnam veteran and artist Rodger M. Brodin and was made with 2,500 pounds of steel hammered and welded together.

A soldier with an M16 slung over his shoulder stands with with outstretched arms asking “Why did you forget us?” Brodin left the soldier’s expression up for interpretation, refusing to say whether the pose was a shoulder shrug or a show of despair.

He didn’t feel it was his right to tell others how to view his work.

The piece, a gift for the veterans of America, is located to the west of the Veterans Services Building. It was dedicated to soldiers who fought and survived wars and conflicts, and looked to preserve the memory of those who left to fight but didn’t make it back.

Brodin took more than a year to complete the project. He used it to help deal with the trauma he struggled with after his return from Vietnam. The finished product differed from the artist’s initial plan for the work. Years prior Brodin wanted the piece to convey depression and initially envisioned a soldier surrounded by skulls and punji sticks.

The finished work represented a change in Brodin. Conversations with fellow veterans helped him overcome his own depression. He hoped the statue would become a vehicle to help fellow soldiers open up about their own experiences, both during the fighting and after it ends, and heal.

The $23,000 paid for the statue and installation was raised by VFW chapters throughout the state—with an assist from various American Legion groups.

No state funds were used.

Today, "The Monument to the Living" can be found near the corner of John Ireland Blvd and W 12th St, west of the Veteran Service Building.

Sources

  • Jones, Jim. "Sculptor says work on soldiers' memorial eased his anguish." Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 23, 1982, 10B.
  • "Monument to the Living / Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs." Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs - State of Minnesota. https://mn.gov/mdva/memorials/memorials/monumenttotheliving.jsp.

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