Coon Rapids resident Tom Lee, pictured here at a January city council meeting in which he proposed a veterans memorial, gained approval Monday for the memorial but postponed his plans indefinitely after the local American Legion offered a plan of its own that night. <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Daily Times Herald photo by James Heggen</em></span>
Coon Rapids resident Tom Lee, pictured here at a January city council meeting in which he proposed a veterans memorial, gained approval Monday for the memorial but postponed his plans indefinitely after the local American Legion offered a plan of its own that night. Daily Times Herald photo by James Heggen
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

COON RAPIDS — Tom Lee won a brief victory Monday night in his fight to build a memorial for fallen U.S. Army Specialist Shawn Muhr, but it was quickly trampled, he said.

City council members voted unanimously to approve Lee’s proposed memorial — a plan he said was a compromise after city leaders repeatedly balked at honoring the 26-year-old soldier who died in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan in January 2011.

But local American Legion commander Bob Schumacher addressed the council shortly after the vote and proposed another memorial that would be more prominently placed in town.

Lee’s plan would have put the memorial near the city’s aquatic center. Schumacher’s proposed site was along Iowa Highway 141.

“I was quite surprised,” Lee said this morning. “I’m pretty deflated at this point.

“Is this meant to compete with mine? Or replace it? I don’t know, but I’m going to yield to their plans.”

Schumacher could not be reached to comment for this story.

Lee had sought for months to memorialize Muhr’s life and death.

First, he proposed to rename a street for the soldier, but city leaders said the change would be too burdensome for residents of the renamed street because their mailing addresses would change.

Then he proposed a memorial bench and plaque for Muhr, but city leaders were wary of honoring an individual soldier.

Lee’s compromise proposal would have had a specific memorial for Muhr, but it also would have honored other Coon Rapids military veterans, he said. Muhr’s father, David, still wants to place memorial signs atop some of the city’s street signs that would display his son’s name but wouldn’t change residents’ mailing addresses.

“I’m not doing this for myself,” Lee said. “This is meant to honor all our veterans. I didn’t want any credit.

“I just don’t understand what the problem was honoring a young man who died at war.”