WASECA — Karla Madden drives on Highway 13 multiple times a day. Soon it will honor her son who was killed while serving in Afghanistan.
But first funds must be raised for signs.
Last month state lawmakers approved renaming the Waseca County segment of the highway as the Cpl. Caleb L. Erickson Memorial Highway.
Former state senator Mike Parry spearheaded the effort, with the support of Erickson’s family. The idea was put on the back burner by the pandemic and revived earlier this year, Parry said.
Waseca’s current lawmakers, Sen. John Jasinski and Rep. John Petersburg, agreed to sponsor bills that became part of the transportation bill that became law June 26.
The measure included over $7 billion for road improvements and other transportation projects. But it did not provide any funding to support the renaming of Highway 13. State law actually prohibits the use of state funds for signs denoting a memorial roadway.
So Parry is now leading the charge to raise private funds for signs. He’s aiming to raise a minimum of $3,000 for at least two monument signs to be placed along the highway at the county lines.
The segment of the north-south highway that runs the entire length of Waseca County is being renamed, including through the heart of Erickson’s hometown of Waseca.
Erickson joined the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after graduating from Waseca High School in 2012. He was deployed to Afghanistan and died in 2014 at age 20 when his convoy was struck by a suicide bomber.
Erickson’s family and the Waseca community has kept his memory alive with community events that now include an annual fundraiser for veterans organizations.
Parry is trying to raise $3,000 by Friday so the highway signs will be in place before the fundraiser next month.
Donations can be made at gofund.me/7c5f0699 and at Roundbank in Waseca.
Madden said she has some “mixed emotions” about what will be a daily reminder of her loss. But she’s happy her son will not be forgotten.
“He will still be remembered even after I’m gone,” she said.
After a pandemic hiatus, Madden said this year’s memorial fundraiser is returning at full throttle. The two-day event starts with dinner and a DJ on Aug. 27 at the Waseca American Legion. On Aug. 28 there is a bloody mary bar, lunch, dinner, DJ and a silent auction at the Legion and a memorial ride in between.
Motorcycles, cars and anything else “street legal” is welcome to join the ride, Madden said. It will travel on Highway 13 and will include a stop at Erickson’s final resting place.
Funds raised go to various organizations that support veterans.