Groundbreaking held for Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery project

Ben Stoterau

Despite less than ideal weather conditions, a nice crowd of local veterans and supporters gathered east of Redwood Falls on Wednesday, Oct. 13 for the groundbreaking ceremony for the upcoming Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery.

The event — which included notable Minnesota politicians and administrators — was the first step in the development of the Veterans Cemetery which has been in the works for over 12 years.  

As happens at any groundbreaking ceremony, the golden shovels were wielded by public officials and those involved in the process of securing the location of a State Veterans Cemetery in Redwood Falls.

The project will feature 10 separate phases on 81 acres of land, near the eastern edge of town, overlooking the Minnesota River Valley. The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the US Department of Veterans Affairs awarded a project grant of $11.2 million and a special session kick-in by the Minnesota Legislature this year provided another $4.5 million.

After a brief introduction from Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Commissioner of Programs and Services Brad Lindsay, the program saw a presentation of colors from the Minnesota Military Funeral Honors Team followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by former Redwood County Commissioner Lon Walling.

The program at the Veterans Cemetery groundbreaking included presentation of colors from the Minnesota Military Funeral Honors Team.
The Military Funeral Honors Team rifle squad was also part of the ceremony at the cemetery site.

Redwood Valley student Kaylee Robinson led a beautiful rendition of the national anthem alongside RVHS Band Director Paul Berggren, who also played "Taps" to close out the ceremony.

RVHS Band Director Paul Berggren played "Taps" to close out the ceremony.
US Navy veteran Lydia Conito, of the Lower Sioux Tribal Community, gave a special invocation and blessing through song during the program at the Veterans Cemetery groundbreaking ceremony.

A special invocation and blessing through song was given by US Navy Veteran Lydia M. Conito of the Lower Sioux Tribal Community. Conito spoke eloquently of her time in the service as well as family (a pair of uncles) who served and one who passed away bravely on the beaches of Normandy. She also explained the ties to the land where the cemetery will be built and the Lower Sioux people and the significance of having a place to come and honor those who have passed before us.

“This was the land you’re standing on where the 1862 War began and it feels like to me the circle is finally coming close to an end,” Conito said. “Now our veterans will have a safe place to be and when the day comes where they meet their Creator they will be healthful and happy — right here on this land.”

Governor Tim Walz addressed the crowd at the Veterans Cemetery groundbreaking.

Governor Tim Walz and US Senator Amy Klobuchar both spoke briefly about the importance of having a state Veterans Cemetery (the Redwood Falls cemetery will be the fourth in the state) located here in the Southwest part of the state. Currently Fort Snelling and another location in Sioux Falls are the closest veterans cemeteries.

Senator Amy Klobuchar was greeted at the groundbreaking.

“We need to make sure our veterans cemeteries are throughout our state and in particular in rural Minnesota,” Klobuchar said.

Senator Gary Dahms also gave his thoughts on the importance of having this cemetery built here in Redwood Falls.

“These hallowed grounds represent part of the commitment of our community to making sure every member of our nation’s military, whether in their service years, as a veteran, or in death, is respected and honored,” Dahms said. “To the thousands who will someday be buried here, I say thank you for the sacrifices you have made for our country. Our community not only grieves you in death but celebrates you in life. Generations of future Americans will gather here and reflect on those who made freedom possible.”

Schmidt Construction of Redwood Falls will start with the first development phase of 21.7 acres of land and when the project is finished it will be able to accommodate the burial demands (caskets, in-ground cremation and above ground cremation) of up to 44,000 veterans.

The cemetery when operational will have a staff of seven employees.

A dedication ceremony is tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2023.