Minn. legislators consider renaming bridge to honor heroes
Minnesota legislators are considering a proposal to change the Eisenhower Memorial Bridge to the "Bridge of Valor" honoring all heroes
By Dan Browning
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota legislators are considering a proposal to rename a new bridge between Red Wing, Minn., and Hager City, Wis., from the Eisenhower Memorial Bridge, which honored the 34th president of the United States and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, to "Bridge of Valor" honoring all heroes.
Mayor Sean Dowse said the Red Wing City Council questioned last year whether the new bridge should get a different name but dropped the idea after learning that a state statue specified that any bridge built across the Mississippi at that location must be named after Dwight D. Eisenhower. The City Council noted at the time that citizens who wanted to pick up the idea were free to contact their state legislators. Dowse said he only learned last week that they had taken up the matter with the Legislature.
Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, said veterans groups and other interested parties met for the past year to consider ways to honor those who served in the Vietnam War. That got expanded to Gold Star families who've lost a loved one to war. And they ultimately decided that they wanted to honor first responders — police officers, firefighters, paramedics — as well, Haley said.
They came up with the name "Bridge of Valor" to honor those who sacrifice themselves to protect others. Haley agreed to sponsor House File 548 to rename the bridge. Sen. Michael P. Goggin, R-Red Wing, sponsored a matching bill (Senate File 646).
The House Transportation Finance and Policy Division will consider the matter Thursday afternoon.
"At this point, I've heard of no opposition," Haley said. "Their purpose is to honor all veterans, past, present and future."
Google "Bridge of Valor" now and you'll find links to medieval game models by Dwarven Forge depicting a bridge in a stone castle, or a fantasy novel by Anne Leslie Groell about a pair of characters who become comrades in something called the Assassins Guild.
Minnesota history buff John Weeks III wrote about the spans across the river between Red Wing and Wisconsin on his web page. The Eisenhower Memorial Bridge initially was called the Interstate Bridge, but was renamed the Hiawatha Bridge before it opened in 1960. It was renamed again after then-President Eisenhower visited Red Wing to dedicate the bridge, drawing more than 20,000 people, Weeks said.
"Eisenhower stressed that the government in Washington was listening to the people and taking care of their needs even though they were over 1,000 miles from the federal capital," he wrote. "In reality, 1960 was an election year, and Vice President Nixon was in a tough battle with Senator [John Fitzgerald] Kennedy. Eisenhower came to Minnesota in support of Nixon's election bid, an election that Kennedy eventually won. The people of Red Wing later renamed the bridge in Eisenhower's honor."
It's hard to imagine that the late five-star general would object to honoring the men and women who sacrificed themselves for the sake of the country. But Weeks said in an interview Thursday that if someone wants to do that they should consider naming a city park, where people linger.
If it's named Bridge of Valor, Weeks said, "it just sounds way too generic. … Someone driving across the bridge isn't going to know what it means."
Copyright 2019 Star Tribune