Shaw: North Dakota National Cemetery really needs improvement – InForum


It’s great that North Dakota’s first National Cemetery opened in rural Harwood in 2018. However, improvements are badly needed. There must be a parking lot and a building with bathrooms, a chapel and a family gathering area.

“There is no structure in the cemetery. No toilets. No place to meet,” said Fargo Memorial Honor Guard Commander Jason Hicks. “There is nothing there. So many families come from far away, and there is no place to go before or after. We want to have this for the families, the honor guard and everyone in attendance.

Between having up to five funerals a day that the honor guard can attend while dealing with the brutal weather, conditions can be very difficult at the cemetery.

“For our honor guard, it’s getting very taxing,” Hicks told me. “There is nothing to take away from the elements. Families are also disappointed. It is a huge problem. We miss the human aspect.

Eleanor Berge, left, receives a folded American flag after her husband Connolly’s burial Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, at North Dakota National Cemetery in Harwood. Connolly was a Korean War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge.

Contributed / Jason Hicks

Luckily, the honor guard has a great plan. He collects funds for a building and a parking lot. They also want to create a place for sacred burial rituals for Native American veterans. Members of the honor guard need $1.5 million to $2.5 million. So far they have raised around $425,000. The Fargo Memorial Honor Guard is to be commended for their efforts. What the honor guard wants to do would make a huge difference to whoever takes care of the cemetery.

“We’re very confident that we can fundraise,” Hicks said. “The more people who hear about it, the more they want to get on board. Many people are surprised that these necessities are not in place now.

A rendering shows a proposed area for Native American veterans at the North Dakota National Cemetery in Harwood.

Contributed / Jason Hicks

Hicks says the owner of the land, Jake Gust, will sell it to them to build the building and parking lot under one condition. He wants a government entity to be considered the new owner of the land. This entity would be Cass County. Thus, the honor guard would lease the land from Cass County for a small fee, such as $1 per year.

During this time, the Honor Guard would run and manage the building without government oversight. The department has nothing to lose. It should be emphasized that none of this would cost taxpayers money.

InForum columnist Jim Shaw, along with Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney and North Dakota Rep. Austen Schauer, visit local veterans during the Patriot’s Day ceremony at the Fargo Air Museum.

Contributor / Jim Shaw

Thus, the Cass County Commission should quickly embark on approving this vital project. It is obvious.

“It’s Arlington National Cemetery in North Dakota,” Hicks said. “We’re just looking to improve on what’s there. We need to make things better for families going through such a difficult time and experience. We want to make it a more positive experience.

InForum columnist Jim Shaw, left, discusses Patriots Day during a celebration at the Fargo Theater alongside North Dakota Rep. Austen Schauer, NDSU history professor Don Johnson, Superintendent of North Dakota Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler and FM Legion Rider Director Tom Krabbenhoft.

Contributor / Jim Shaw

Thank you to everyone who participated in our wonderful first Patriots Day celebration in North Dakota. The United Patriotic Corps held a meaningful and touching ceremony at the Fargo Air Museum. At the Fargo Theater we had an entertaining film about the Revolutionary War followed by a passionate and insightful discussion about the war and the holidays.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Forum Editorial Board or the owners of the Forum.


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