Fulfilling fallen soldier’s dream
NEW LONDON -- Four years ago to the day that Ricky and Tracy Clark buried their only son, Ryane, in a tear-filled ceremony surrounded by elected officials, military members, Patriot Guard members holding flags, boy scouts and family and friends, ...
NEW LONDON –– Four years ago to the day that Ricky and Tracy Clark buried their only son, Ryane, in a tear-filled ceremony surrounded by elected officials, military members, Patriot Guard members holding flags, boy scouts and family and friends, the New London couple held another ceremony in an important step to finally fulfill their son’s dream.
“I know he’s up there smiling from ear to ear,” said Tracy Clark, of her son, who was killed in active combat in 2010 in Afghanistan when he was just 22 years old. “This is a project he wanted to see done.”
The project involves turning a grassy patch of land on the edge of New London into a paved parking lot for people who use the adjacent Glacial Lakes State Trail.
Ryane had started working on the project when he was 15 years old for his Eagle Scout project in response to the death of a young classmate, Cody Berg, who was killed in a bicycle accident on the busy road near that site when he was 10 years old.
Because the project entailed transferring privately-owned land to the Department of Natural Resources, the work hit a snag and Ryane selected a different project to meet his Eagle Scout timeline.
But he never gave up on getting the parking lot built so people using the trail would have a safe place to park and unload bicycles.
Even while on active duty he would check in with his parents to see if any progress had been made on the parking lot project, said Tracy Clark.
After his death in 2010 the family continued pursuing their son’s goal to get the parking lot built but hit similar roadblocks that Ryane experienced years before.
“It’s been a tough and winding road for the family, filled with frustrations, sadness and obvious grief for their son,” said Jon Lindstrand, reading from prepared comments during the groundbreaking ceremony. “But now, after all these years, it will happen in his memory and in his honor.”
Frustrated with the lack of action, the Clark’s turned to local legislator Rep. Mary Sawatzky of Willmar, who along with Sen. Lyle Koenen of Clara City, organized a meeting that put all the parties in the same room. The land transfer with the DNR was quickly finalized after that, said Sawatzky.
The ground-breaking was conducted 11 years after Ryane first began working on the project.
The DNR will fund construction of the parking lot.
But the family is seeking $25,000 in donations to erect a memorial on the site with flags, a bench, statue, memorial walk and plaque telling the story of Ryane, Cody and the origins of the parking lot.
Lindstrand said the memorial will stand as a “tribute to the young man who saw a vision for the future for this location, but who was taken from us too early.”
The ground breaking ceremony on Friday included some of the same elements as it did for Ryane’s funeral.
Patriot Guard members, young boy scouts from Ryane’s old troop, military members, elected officials and family and friends were present as Rick and Tracy Clark and a representative from the DNR turned over shovels-full of soil to kick-off the project.
Even the cloudy, windy weather was the same on Friday as it was four years ago, said Tracy Clark.
But there was satisfaction now that her son’s dream will finally be realized.
“It will get done,” she said.
Clark said family’s goal is to have the entire project completed by September of next year.
Donations to the Ryane Clark Memorial Fund can be made at the United Minnesota Bank in New London.