In 2008, Lon Walling, Redwood County commissioner, began his role on the county board, and one of the first things he did was take a trip to Little Falls to see the veterans cemetery there.

At that time, Redwood County was in the process of establishing a veterans cemetery of its own, and at that time he was given the impression that the project would be accomplished soon.

That was 12 years ago, said Walling, and the project still has not been accomplished.

Walling talked about his frustration over the veterans cemetery project Feb. 4 as part of a scheduled conversation with state officials regarding the lack of progress that has been made.

Walling said at the time this project started he had veterans express their excitement about the fact that they could be buried in a veterans cemetery near their home. Some of those veterans have since passed away, said Walling, adding they have had to be buried elsewhere.

The reason for the meeting with Bradley Lindsey, deputy commissioner of programs and services for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and Dave Swantek, senior administrator of memorial affairs for the DVA, was to address the fact that the Redwood County project had been passed up for federal funding once again when appropriations were announced in October 2019.

Under the impression that the funding was going to come in 2019 after being passed up in 2018, the county board once again heard that other projects would be receiving the federal funding allocated for veterans cemeteries in the U.S. 

According to Lindsay and Swantek, the reality is that the funding was not allocated to the Redwood project because other projects took priority. Lindsay said when existing cemeteries request funds for expansion projects, those always rise to the top of the funding list, and he said by the deadline there were 11 such requests submitted.

The one new cemetery project funded is in Oklahoma, and Lindsay said that is the first veterans cemetery in that state.

Swantek emphasized the fact that the Redwood County project is still in the works, adding he believes this still is a matter of when, not if, it is funded.

District Sen. Gary Dahms and representatives from the office of Collin Peterson were in attendance to reiterate their support.

The current $40 million allocation for veterans cemeteries has been the same for more than a decade, and the hope is to increase that amount for the future.