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Standing on the south side of the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, Col. Randy Stoeckmann of the 934th Mission Support Group told the hundreds who gathered Thursday to dedicate the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial that a vintage airplane flyover was coming any minute.

The crowd of veterans, dignitaries and ordinary Minnesotans squinted toward the sky. Minutes passed. A Delta jet flew overhead — nope. Then a loud semi truck on a nearby highway — nope. Patience, Stoeckmann counseled.

Finally, 13 aircraft streamed over the Capitol: B-25 bombers and a Vietnam-era Douglas Skyraider, a World War II-era torpedo bomber, a Huey helicopter and more.

The message could be applied to the powerful, understated memorial for the nation's highest, most prestigious military decoration: Good things come to those who wait.

"Community support just poured out for this memorial," said Mike McElhiney, veterans service representative at the Hennepin County Veterans Service Office, a member of the memorial's board and a Green Beret who lost an arm in Afghanistan. "There were some difficulties. There were changes in cost and design, additional and ongoing fundraising that never seemed to end. … But this will be here for a very long time."

In 1931, Capitol architect Cass Gilbert completed his final sketch featuring a future memorial to veterans at the south end of the Capitol Mall. A reflecting pool and statue called "Promise of Youth," with a woman inside an opening lily, were erected there after World War II.

A decade ago, John Kraemer of Stillwater began agitating lawmakers to build a memorial more suited to veterans. Six years ago, when the Medal of Honor Convention was in the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Medal of Honor Memorial had its groundbreaking.

Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz called the dedication a historic moment: "(The memorial) is talking about the values that these Medal of Honor recipients embody, the best that America has to offer."

The memorial, which incorporates the "Promise of Youth" statue, cost just shy of $1 million, the majority coming from private funds. There's a garden of contemplation, a court of reflection and two granite walls. There are only six words on the walls, and those are the Medal of Honor values: patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice, commitment.

Since the Medal of Honor's inception during the Civil War, 72 Minnesotans have been recipients; none are currently living. There are 65 living Medal of Honor recipients in the United States.

One of them, Tom Kelley of Boston, was there Thursday. In 1969, Kelley, then a Navy lieutenant, was in charge of eight river assault craft when they were ambushed by the Viet Cong. The official account of his heroics, where he continued giving orders to save a disabled craft despite getting struck in the head with shrapnel and fire continuing to rain in, is jaw-dropping.

Kelley knows that children who hear about heroics like his, or of the two Minnesota recipients he knew before their deaths — Leo Thorsness and Don Rudolph — could be intimidated by their actions. But they shouldn't be.

"These were ordinary men, boys, not looking for fame and glory," Kelley said. "But I'm here to tell you today that you don't have to be a soldier, you don't have to be a first responder, in order to be a hero. You can stand up and be heard when you see something wrong. … These actions count, and they demonstrate a moral courage that is just as heroic as the deeds of these men."

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Mike McElhiney’s job title.