While attempting to renovate and update the Pine River American Legion building, its members sought ways to pay for those renovations, including a Home Depot program to pay for flooring and a bathroom remodel, garage sales to update seating and a fundraiser that will simultaneously memorialize veterans.

“I said we have to do this bar top,” said Post Commander Terry Steele. “I figured there was a place in Minneapolis with butcher block wood. We got that. Then we have a guy who volunteered to put the poly on it. To offset that price I thought we could make it a veterans memorial.”

At first, Steele researched memorial plaques that could be permanently embedded in the bar top, but he eventually realized there was a more appropriate medium.

“I thought, you know what, dog tags would be perfect,” Steele said.

The dog tags will be card stock cut-outs printed with names, branch of service and conflicts where a veteran has served, along with a message of “In memory of” or “In honor of." Each memorial is $25, a fee that will go directly toward building the bar top.

“I was trying to offset the cost,” Steele said. “We don't make that much money here. I thought this would be a really nice thing and you see veterans memorials around.”

Steele compared the bar project to the Legion posts in Backus and Walker, where photos, ribbons and other memorabilia are embedded in the bar top. He also compared the project to a memorial featuring more than 58,000 replica dog tags at Harold Washington Library in Chicago. He doesn't know of any bar with a memorial quite like this one, but he sees it as an important way to honor fallen military veterans.

“We're honoring the veterans that serve,” Steele said. “That's what the club is for, what the Legion is for. I've always thought we are here for veterans that are here now, but also the ones that served and have died.”

There has been a good deal of enthusiasm so far for the project. Steele said they ran out of their first printing of applications almost immediately after the program started July 1. If they run out of space on the bar, Steele said they could continue the project on several tabletops.

For an application and more information, visit the Pine River American Legion and ask a bartender for a copy from now until Aug. 31.