American Legion members fire the third and final volley of a 21-gun salute before the playing of taps at Sunday’s dedication of a Veterans Park in Coon Rapids. Daily Times Herald photos by Jeff Storjohann
American Legion members fire the third and final volley of a 21-gun salute before the playing of taps at Sunday’s dedication of a Veterans Park in Coon Rapids. Daily Times Herald photos by Jeff Storjohann
Monday, October 15, 2012

COON RAPIDS — About 150 Coon Rapids residents joined military officers and elected officials Sunday at a wind-swept City Park to dedicate the Veterans Memorial recognizing the ultimate sacrifice of two dozen area men who served from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There’s no place I’d rather be than right here, right now,” said Col. Ed Daly, a West Point graduate whose commanding voice cut through the brisk early-afternoon air.

The monument is largely the vision of Coon Rapids resident Tom Lee, a retired registered nurse with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and a current ACE Hardware employee in Carroll. Lee’s family tree is branched with numerous veterans.

Funded with about $5,000 from the Gurney Parker American Legion Post 357 and private donations, the memorial, situated just west of the Coon Rapids-Bayard High School football field and south of the city aquatic center, was completed in early September. Work started in May, and Lee, who is not a veteran, did much of it himself.

“Our tribute here today is not enough for our veterans,” Lee said.

Lee said Coon Rapids residents can bounce a grandchild on a knee, enjoy a free discussion of politics and all the trappings of liberty because of the men whose names are listed for history on the memorial.

“Because of them, we can do all of the above,” Lee said.

Lee recalled a World War II veteran passing by as he constructed part of the memorial.

“The look on his face was worth the price of admission,” Lee said.

Military personnel from across the nation arrived in Coon Rapids over the weekend to pay specific respects to the most recent fallen solider from this southern Carroll County community.

U.S. Army Spc. Shawn A. Muhr, 26, a 2003 Coon Rapids-Bayard graduate, and Spc. Joshua R. Campbell, 22, of Bennett, Colo., died in January 2011 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Capt. Michael Harrell, one of Muhr’s leaders in Afghanistan, spoke about the final hours for Muhr and Campbell, how Harrell made eye contact with all the men in his unit before the mission. Muhr, known as a formidable competitor who could stretch out a game of chess, responded with a grin and a huge smile, Harrell said.

Muhr’s father, David Muhr, still has shrapnel in his body from a grenade in Vietnam. Some of its in his heel. Some more in his feet. The 1966 Kuemper Catholic High School graduate has owned Coon Rapids Repair for three decades. The business deals with engines of many sizes, from the ones that power cars and trucks to those in lawnmowers.

Shawn Muhr loved that business and it prepared him well for the military, said his commanding officers and family.

“Specialist Muhr was the go-to guy whenever we had a question about anything mechanical,” Harrell said.

Daly, who traveled from Fort Lee, Va., to attend the dedication, served with Muhr for about three months. He said Muhr exhibited the bottom-line approach for the U.S. Army, where “excellence is not a single act but a habit.”

“Shawn led from the front,” Daly said. “He was well-respected by everybody.”

Added Daly, “He paid the ultimate sacrifice as he stood on freedom’s frontier.”

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, had been scheduled to attend the dedication but his 92-year-old mother, Mildred, passed away Friday, news the congressman learned as he was leaving Pella Corp. in Carroll after an event there. The funeral was Sunday in Kingsley.

King’s district director Wayne Brincks spoke on behalf on the congressman and cited the good works of people like Tom Lee who are tireless in efforts to honor and respect veterans.

“It’s a great tribute to our soldiers,” Brincks said.

The Dedham American Legion provided the 21-gun salute, and members of the Glidden-Ralston and Coon Rapids-Bayard High School bands performed music for the ceremony.

Two local Army veterans, John Schumacher, who wore his original World War II U.S. Army uniform, and John Grettenberg handled the flag-raising duties.