A five-year journey was marked with music, the sound of bugles and speeches in the town of Brule on Veterans Day.

Despite the pouring rain, veterans from throughout Douglas County ringed the 24,000-pound central stone of the Price of War Memorial as Staff Sgt. Nicholas Gustafson of Superior read the names of the 13 military personnel killed this summer in Kabul, Afghanistan. Members of the Northwestern High School choir sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and other patriotic tunes.

"My heart is so full right now," said Vietnam veteran Paul Helbach, a driving force behind the creation of the memorial.

The site in the town park is dominated by boulders, nearly 25 tons of them, from a local quarry. They are decorated with metal maple leaves containing quotes. Benches in honor of local veterans ring the site; a metal eagle sculpture faces true north.

The memorial signifies the weight and gravity that soldiers experience in combat and the toll war has on our communities, said Vietnam veteran and former state Sen. Bob Jauch, of Poplar.

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PREVIOUSLY: Brule's small war memorial sends loud message

"Whether a soldier is sitting in a foxhole, marching in the cold Korean terrain, hacking their way through the jungles of Vietnam or enduring relentless heat in the desert, they're constantly thinking about home. They know the cost of war. For them, it isn't measured in dollars, but it's the loss of tomorrows," Jauch said.

The memorial struck a chord with many of the veterans who took part in the dedication ceremony.

"I love it. I think it's a great statement," said Gustafson, who has served in the Army for 18 years, including a combat tour of Afghanistan from 2006-2007. "The fact that it's different than most traditional memorials, it's refreshing."

Seegar Swanson Jr., right, a Korean War veteran and chaplain of the Iron River American Legion Post #506, laughs after Paul Helbach referred to him as a veteran of the Civil War before Swanson spoke during the Price of War memorial dedication in Brule on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.  
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Seegar Swanson Jr., right, a Korean War veteran and chaplain of the Iron River American Legion Post #506, laughs after Paul Helbach referred to him as a veteran of the Civil War before Swanson spoke during the Price of War memorial dedication in Brule on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

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Vietnam veteran Clint Mattson, of Maple, said he was glad to see the crowd gathered to honor veterans, especially the high school students.

"To me, it's really a meaningful memorial," said Mattson, a member of the Bong-Hofsteadt American Legion Post #409, based in Poplar.

Memorials honoring veterans have sprung up throughout Douglas County, from Lake Nebagamon to Iron River.

"What I like about them is each of these memorials are unique and different in their own right," Mattson said. "This stands out as a very unique one and it's fitting. And the surrounding area — the little area where you can stand and sit — is a reflection area. I think it's really very neat."

John Schrock of Brule, a Vietnam era veteran with the Air Force and a member of the Brule River Lions Club, plays taps in the rain during the Price of War memorial dedication in Brule on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.  
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
John Schrock of Brule, a Vietnam era veteran with the Air Force and a member of the Brule River Lions Club, plays taps in the rain during the Price of War memorial dedication in Brule on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The project was proposed by a member of the Brule River Lions Club and propelled by a committee that was led by Helbach. Vietnam-era veteran John Schrock of Brule, a member of the Lions Club, said building the grassroots memorial has been a good experience, but it's a relief to have it finished.

"It's just nice to have it done. I think it's really cool, and it's different," he said.

Jauch said the Brule site is simple, unique and thought-provoking. It's a place to reflect on the price of war and imagine peace.

"Visitors are reminded that sacrifice is the price of freedom by brave men and women who, just like us, share the same hopes and dreams for hope and peace," Jauch said. "It asks the question 'What will we do with the lessons we learned from them? What do we do with our time that we have, granted by their sacrifice?'"

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