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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approves veterans cemetery funding for Redwood County (updated)

Redwood County Veterans Service Officer, Sergeant Dustin Hunter, along with Redwood County Commissioners, County Administrator Vicki Knobloch Kletscher and Lower Sioux Tribal Veterans Service Officer Galyn Minkel hosted a site visit of the future Veterans Cemetery in Redwood County with landowner Robert LeSage and four MN Dept. of VA Affairs employees (Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, Larry Herke, Deputy Commissioner Brad Lindsay, Director of Veterans Programs and Memorial Affiars Andy Garvais and Sr. Administrator of Memorial Affairs David Swantek). Photo courtesy Redwood County.

Redwood County has been wanting to construct a new veterans cemetery for years, but every year the federal funding has fallen through. County officials learned that has changed this week.

Dave Swantek, Senior Administrator of Memorial Affairs, informed the county on Tuesday that the National Cemetery Administration, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will be awarding a grant next year to establish a fourth state veterans cemetery in Minnesota, to be located on the east side of Redwood Falls, south of Highways 19/71.

The state has had authority to construct three new veterans cemeteries in Minnesota for years. One opened in Preston in 2014, and one opened in Duluth last year. The third one was scheduled for Redwood Falls.

It’s been a long time coming. In recent years, county commissioners have decided on a location, gotten a purchase agreement from the current landowner, and done the necessary soil sampling and archaeological studies. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is currently working with Redwood County officials to confirm the state’s ownership of the property as a first step.

One reason the proposed Redwood Falls veterans cemetery was deferred in recent years was that veterans cemetery construction funding is divided up between different states. Oklahoma had requested funds to create its first veterans cemetery, while Minnesota had three new projects on the list. Swantek said it hasn’t helped Redwood’s case that Preston went $1 million over budget, and Duluth’s ended up being more expensive than expected.

Bradley Lindsay, Deputy Commissioner of Programs and Services, stated that Redwood was deferred in part because the cemetery in Little Falls requested the funds to add 1,800 more plots to its site, the second expansion of the Little Falls veterans cemetery in 26 years.

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