Former Race Car Driver and Knoxville Business Owner Tells Why he Donated Land for Soldier’s Memorial

KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- Al Larsen made a soldier's memorial to honor his fallen brother in arms.

"He was from Waterloo and we got to know each other over in Vietnam," said Larsen. "He got killed November 17. I got shot November 18."

They were just young men at the time, serving in the U.S. Army, in the the 4th Infantry Division.

Larsen, who's now 70, sparked a controversy three years ago when made the memorial to honor his fallen fellow soldier. The plywood memorial shows a silhouetted soldier kneeling before a cross. At the time, an anonymous person complained to the city about the memorial, because the cross was on government property in a city park, and the anonymous person claimed it violated the separation of church and state.

A national group then threatened to sue the city if it didn't remove it.

"We had thousands of people want it there," said Larsen. "You know, we had thousands of people who wanted it over there. It takes one person to mess the whole thing up."

A former race car driver and local businessman stepped forward to help out.

"We're big supporters of the Veterans of the United States," said Larry Ball Jr. "And, my father-in-law had retired from the VA administration there, and we just believe in our Veterans all the way, and some of the politics that were going on over the cross and all that was enough to have us get involved since we own the property right across the street."

Ball donated the land and a local construction company put down the concrete and added a sidewalk free of charge.

Ball never served in the military, but he has family and friends who did, and they mean a lot to him.

"I`m very proud of all of them," said Ball. "And, I can't imagine what they've...went through and for them to be able to come back and have a place to just kind of hangout and meditate a little bit, you know, perfect."

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