On Wednesday, the state’s fourth veterans cemetery had its dedication ceremony in southern Minnesota.
Bad weather didn’t stop state and local officials, community residents and veterans from huddled in white tarp tents as rain and wind blew through rural prairie lands in Redwood Falls. Where the tents were located will eventually house an 81-acre resting place for military veterans.
The project lasted 12 years for many families and veterans in southwestern Minnesota, who sometimes traveled hundreds of miles to the nearest cemeteries, Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities or Sioux Falls, SD, to pay tribute to their loved ones. .
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke said the state has so far buried 10,000 veterans in its state cemeteries.
“I believe the cemetery will be important to this community,” Herke said. It is [the] last stop for many of our veterans throughout their lives. And it’s important that these honors are truly bestowed on each of our veterans as we move forward.
Gov. Tim Walz, an Army National Guard veteran, said bipartisan support to secure funding for the veterans cemetery, as well as community leaders and officials working together to secure ownership, were critical to the success of the project.
“Veterans support each other, veterans stand side by side,” Walz said. “All the differences that we see, especially when you walk into this special place, all of those differences are gone. We live in this perfect democracy, where we are brothers and sisters serving this nation. This community has accepted responsibility, and I would say that there are few communities more ready than this to accept it.
Funding for the cemetery was bolstered by an $11.2 million grant from the National Cemetery Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and $4.5 million from this year’s Minnesota Legislature.
During the dedication ceremony, community members recognized the importance of having a sacred space for service members to rest. Among them was Navy veteran Lydia Conito, a member of the Lower Sioux Indian community, who has a family history of military service.
“I’m so happy, I feel like the circle is coming to an end,” Conito said. “Now our veterans will have a safe place to be and when they meet their Creator they will all be so healthy, happy and they will meet all of their loved ones right here on this earth.”
There are 10 planning phases in total, starting with a development phase of 21.7 acres of land. It will include burial sites for caskets, in-ground cremation and above-ground columbarium cremation. The state also plans to hire seven employees to help maintain the cemetery grounds.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose father was a Korean War veteran, said it was important to continue supporting veterans and military personnel in life and beyond.
“We show them when they come home, not with tomatoes like what happened after the Vietnam War,” Klobuchar said. “You may have disagreements with war, but you don’t take it out on warriors. We owe it to them and their families to provide them with a beautiful and dignified resting place. That’s what this place is.
A dedication ceremony for Redwood Falls Cemetery is scheduled for spring or early summer 2023.
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