FARGO — Tensions between the Veterans Administration and the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard appeared to end on Friday, Sept. 9, after Sen. John Hoeven announced new plans for the Fargo National Cemetery.
Striving to emulate the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in Mandan, Fargo National Cemetery in Harwoood, which serves the state of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, should not be considered a rural project when the metropolitan region has a quarter of a million inhabitants. , said Hoeven, RN.D.
“We’ve now gotten the VA to agree to permanent washroom facilities, and we’re on our way to 35 acres,” Hoeven said at a press conference at the Fargo Air Museum. “A rural cemetery is not what we need. We need a really good veterans cemetery.
Fargo National Cemetery was part of the rural burial initiative and is overseen by the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Complex, said David Huth, Fort Snelling National Cemetery Complex Superintendent.
Hoeven announced that his office had secured funding and approval from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to build a fully equipped restroom with running water, flushing toilets, heat and electricity at the cemetery.
Hoeven also announced that the National Cemetery Association is working to acquire the additional land to ensure adequate burial space in the future. Part of the land will be owned by the city of Fargo, which will help the cemetery secure federal grants, Hoeven said.
Mayor Tim Mahoney said with an area that has one of the highest numbers of people serving in the military, the city was proud to be part of the project.
Tensions in recent months have revolved around a VA vaulted toilet proposal that was part of a $250,000 improvement project. The current project, which includes wind walls and storage space, is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
The opposing party, led by members of the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard, argued that building a toilet without electricity or running water at Fargo National Cemetery was tantamount to building an outbuilding in the same ground where the veterans are buried.
At the same time, the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard conducted a major fundraising campaign to construct a muster center adjacent to the cemetery with a chapel, indoor restrooms, storage, meeting and assembly hall, and area ceremony proposed for Native American veterans next to the structure. .
The fundraising effort raised about half of the $2.5 million needed, Fargo Memorial Honor Guard fundraiser Jim Graalum said. Now Graalum is tasked with raising even more money, he said.
“So once we buy the land, I will go and collect millions of dollars,” he said.
The controversy between the VA and the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard began in October 2019, but in recent months it has heated up, Huth said in July.
He claimed that some members of the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard became hostile over differences of opinion, saying, “If you cross them, they’ll come after you.”
Additionally, Jason Hicks, Chief of the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard and Clay County Sheriff’s Department Deputy, was suspended from volunteer work with the Honor Guard for six months due to such “attacks.” , Huth said.
Hoeven said Hicks’ suspension was not changed, but he was working with the VA to fix that and other issues.
Tom Krabbenhoft, spokesman for the Fargo Memorial Honor Guard, said, “Today is the furthest we’ve taken the game of football. Our #1 goal is to care for veterans and their families. We only have one chance to do this national cemetery well; we won’t get a second chance to do so.
Marvin J. Nicklay, a veteran who served more than 43 years with the Army National Guard and has volunteered for honor guard work since 1963, said it was time to “move on.” and take care of them (veterans and their families).”
Graalum and Hoeven said students at North Dakota State University were behind the designs for the new expansion, which have not been made public.
“If this concept can come to fruition, I think people will want to be part of it,” Hoeven said.