Despite less than ideal weather conditions, a nice crowd of veterans and local supporters gathered east of Redwood Falls on Wednesday, October 13 for the dedication ceremony for the upcoming Veterans Cemetery in the State of Minnesota.
The event – which included notable politicians and administrators from Minnesota – was the first step in the development of the veterans cemetery which has been under construction for more than 12 years.
The project will consist of 10 separate phases on 81 acres of land near the eastern outskirts of town, overlooking the Minnesota River Valley. The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the US Department of Veterans Affairs provided a project grant of $ 11.2 million and a special kick-off session by the Minnesota Legislature provided an additional $ 4.5 million this year.
After a brief introduction by Minnesota Veterans Affairs Deputy Commissioner of Programs and Services Brad Lindsay, the program saw a presentation of the colors of the Minnesota Military Funeral Honors Team, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by former Redwood County Commissioner Lon Walling.
Redwood Valley student Kaylee Robinson led a magnificent rendition of the national anthem alongside RVHS Group Director Paul Berggren, who also played “Taps” to close the ceremony.
A special invocation and song blessing was given by US Navy veteran Lydia M. Conito of the Lower Sioux tribal community. Conito spoke eloquently of his time in the service as well as his family (a pair of uncles) who served and one who bravely died on the beaches of Normandy. She also explained the links with the land where the cemetery will be built and the people of the Lower Sioux and the importance of having a place to come and honor those who came before us.
âThis was the land you were on, where the War of 1862 started and I feel like the circle is finally coming to an end,â Conito said. âNow our veterans will have a safe place to be and when the day comes when they meet their Creator, they will be healthy and happy – right here on this earth. “
Governor Tim Walz and US Senator Amy Klobuchar both spoke briefly about the importance of having a State Veterans Cemetery (Redwood Falls Cemetery will be the fourth in the state) located here in the South. western state. Currently, Fort Snelling and another location in Sioux Falls are the closest veterans cemeteries.
âWe need to make sure that our veterans cemeteries are located throughout our state and especially in rural Minnesota,â Klobuchar said.
Senator Gary Dahms also shared his thoughts on the importance of building this cemetery here in Redwood Falls.
âThese sacred grounds represent a part of our community’s commitment to ensuring that every member of our nation’s military, whether in their years of service, as a veteran or in the process of die, is respected and honored, âDahms said. âTo the thousands of people who will one day be buried here, I say thank you for the sacrifices you have made for our country. Our community not only grieves you in death, but celebrates you in life. Generations of future Americans will gather here and reflect on those who made freedom possible. “
Schmidt Construction of Redwood Falls will begin with the first phase of development of 21.7 acres of land and when the project is completed will be able to meet burial requests (coffins, ground cremation and above ground cremation. ) of up to 44,000 veterans.
The cemetery, when operational, will have a staff of seven.
An inauguration ceremony is tentatively scheduled for spring 2023.