Vietnam Memorial Forest Saved From Bank Sale
A forest planted by a Vietnam veteran in memory of Americans who died in the war was saved Wednesday when supporters raised enough money to stave off a bank foreclosure sale.
“I think the good Lord sent them,” said Geoffrey Steiner, who started the project on his own nine years ago and says he is more than halfway toward his goal of planting a tree for every American who died in Vietnam.
Fruth Companies Inc., a beer distributor in Brainerd, gave $5,400 toward the $6,033.53 needed to keep the 100-acre forest near Cushing, about 120 miles north of Minneapolis, from being sold.
The rest of the money to save the Veterans National Living Memorial came from Vietnam Veterans of America chapters and individuals from around the country.
Vietnam Veterans of America chapters in Dayton, Ohio, and Junction City, Kan., also have raised several hundred dollars to pay property taxes on the tract, said Terry Thompson, legislative coordinator for the Dayton chapter.
There also are plans to place the property in a trust, said Thompson, who arrived in Minnesota earlier this week to help with the fund-raising.
The site is on a hilltop three miles off a U.S. highway at the end of a country road. Older white birch trees loom above the trees of various types that have been planted in the last eight years.
At the center is a wooden flagpole with an American flag, and a stone marker with words from the Bible, beginning: “Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death . . . “
Steiner, 39, a Marine in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, said his memorial differs from those made out of granite. “What we’re trying to do is heal the people,” he said. “This is a living memorial.”
He said he paid $23,000 for the land in 1980 after selling his home in Minneapolis. Since then, Steiner has planted more than 30,000 trees. His goal is to plant a tree for each of the approximately 58,000 U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.
Steiner was about to lose the land for failing to repay an $8,000 loan from Randall State Bank that he had secured with the property in 1984 to buy a car for his wife. If the land had been sold, the only way Steiner could have gotten it back would have been to match the winning bid within a year, the bank’s lawyer had said.