Standing in the middle of a bit of earth just east of Redwood Falls, representatives from Redwood County provided a boots on the ground tour of a site they hope will bring a decade long effort to fruition.

Larry Herke, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs commissioner, learned about a proposed project that would honor veterans at the end of their lives during an April 25 visit in Redwood County. The plot of ground he visited is the selected location for a proposed veterans cemetery.

Herke and other representatives from the state veterans affairs department wanted to come and see the site for themselves in advance of planned trips to Washington, D.C. where they will meet with members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation. Federal funding to develop this project will be on the list of topics for discussion. 

“We will be taking your message to Washington, D.C.,” said Herke, adding the hope is that keeping this and other projects in front of those in Congress and others who work with veterans affairs at the federal level will make it happen. “You have been very patient.”

However, said Herke, 10 years of waiting is more than long enough.

Herke listened as David Swantek, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs cemetery director, explained the plan for the land. Currently the county has agreements in place to purchase nearly 80 acres of land, and it has placed $1 million in reserve to help move the project forward.

Herke said from the state’s perspective, things are ready to go as it relates to this project.

According to Swantek, the funds for projects like this will be allocated in October, and once those funds are guaranteed work on the final master plan would be conducted. That, he said, would likely be done before the end of the year.

Swantek said the plan is to develop the cemetery with the potential of 50 years of life. The site in Redwood Falls was selected based on it being a central location for an underserved part of the state’s veterans population – more than 20,000 veterans live within the radius that would be served by this proposed cemetery.

Herke said the state is committed to helping make this project happen, adding after the construction funds are approved and the cemetery is established the state is ready to step in and operate it.

Dustin Hunter, Redwood County VSO, said it was great to have the commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs in the community making a stop to look at and further promote the project in Redwood County.