Decades after he returned from Vietnam, some of Jerry Miron's stories can still bring him to tears. Others are darkly humorous. And then there are some he won't tell at all, but they remain in his mind.
"They're never going to go away," Miron said.
On Saturday, Miron, 72, of White Bear Lake, told some of his stories after a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park of Blaine dedicated to the unveiling of five new monuments, each dedicated to a particular war: World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the War on Terror.
The memorials, 11-foot-tall squares of black granite etched with iconic images and photo collages, cost $28,000 apiece, paid for with a $100,000 donation from the city of Blaine and $23,000 from the Champlin Park Baseball Association.
They join monuments to the Civil War and Purple Hearts already in the park. Park President Steve Guider, founder and leader of the monument project, said plans call for eventually adding more until there are 18 altogether, including some honoring fallen soldiers, POWs, women in war and each military branch. The organization is raising donations on its website, veteransparkofblaine.org.
On Saturday, the monuments were unveiled, one at a time, by veterans of the wars they memorialize.
Duane Broten, 88, of Princeton pulled the cover off the Korean War monument. Broten was kept prisoner in Korea for six days in 1953, lying in a trench bleeding from 27 shrapnel wounds, unable to walk to a POW camp without passing out. Every day, he feared he'd be killed, Broten said, his eyes filling with tears. "They'd walk up and put a rifle to my head."
One morning he woke up and there was nobody in sight. "I didn't know if I could escape or not, but I said, 'This is a good time to do it if I can,' " he recalled thinking. He climbed out of the trench and ran over a hill, where he found U.S. soldiers. It took six months for him to recover from his wounds.
After the war, Broten spent 40 years putting it out of his mind, he said. Only in the past 20 years has he allowed himself to think about those times.
Similarly, Miron went 45 years without talking about his experiences in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. He broke his silence when he agreed to talk to his daughter's high school class. Even then, there were some questions he knew he would not answer.
"The students only asked one question: Have I killed anybody?" he said. "That's between me and my God and no one else. My family doesn't even know."
When the conversations get painful, he talks about Rebel, his infantry platoon scout dog. Miron rotated among special forces and infantry divisions accompanied by the German shepherd, who was trained to warn him when ambushes, booby traps or other dangers lay ahead. "I believe I had the best dog in all of Vietnam," Miron said.
Partly because Miron was just 19, one officer refused to believe Miron's warning, via Rebel, that he was ordering five soldiers into an ambush. All five were killed. "I said, 'You know what? I hope you have to write their parents,' " Miron said.
On one mission, he was told that if he and his fellow soldiers were captured, the U.S. government would not back them up. The reason? They were on a secret mission in Cambodia. Shortly after that, he picked up a newspaper and saw the headline, "Nixon Says We Are Not in Cambodia."
When Miron left Vietnam in 1969, he wanted to take Rebel home with him. His commanding officer said no, that the dog was too valuable to let go. He never saw Rebel again. In 1974, he learned, the military put down all of its dogs. "They didn't understand what those dogs gave," Miron said, his voice breaking.
In recent years, Miron has become more comfortable speaking of his experiences. He has talked about them dozens of times — on a public television program, at the Minnesota History Theatre, in a documentary. Still, there are some things he won't talk about.
"I can't get them out of my head," Miron said.
Katy Read • 612-673-4583