Minnesota dedicates new veterans cemetery in Redwood Falls

By Tim Engstrom
Members of veteran service organizations and supporting groups provide a parade of flags at the dedication ceremony Aug. 19 east of Redwood Falls.
The Blue Star Memorial for the new cemetery is unveiled.
The Blue Star Program of National Garden Clubs honors all men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Blue Star Memorial for the cemetery is unveiled on Aug. 19.

REDWOOD FALLS — Veterans, servicemembers, their supporters, along with state and federal officials, gathered on a hot summer Saturday afternoon Aug. 19 in what had once been a cornfield to dedicate the Redwood Falls State Veterans Cemetery.

“For now, as long as this nation stands, this cemetery will be here to honor our veterans,” declared Gov. Tim Walz at the dedication.

Minnesota Army National Guard Funeral Honors Team
Posting of the colors was handled by the Minnesota Army National Guard Funeral Honors Team.

Minnesota now has six veterans cemeteries.

He noted how each of the four state veteran cemeteries are in differing environments: Preston is in the Driftless Area. Little Falls is among the pines. Duluth is part of the North Shore. Redwood Falls, he said, is in corn-and-soybean country.

The fifth one would be Fort Snelling National Cemetery in the metro. It is operated by the federal government. The sixth one is the Leech Lake Tribal Veterans Cemetery.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said $11.2 million of the cost came from the federal government. Another $4.5 million came from the state. Redwood County spent $1.841 million — on purchasing the land to donate it to the state and on paving Nobles Avenue, formerly a gravel road.

Klobuchar said the site invokes the patriotism of Minnesota efforts in past wars. Among them, she cited Gettysburg, where the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment was crucial in preventing Confederate soldiers from splitting Union defenses, with casualties at 82 percent.

She mentioned how her father, journalist Jim Klobuchar, was laid to rest at Fort Snelling in 2021.

And she recalled a memorial in a field outside Kimball that honors the site where three Minnesota National Guard servicemembers perished in a helicopter crash in December 2019.

Annabelle Eriksen of Redwood Valley High School sings “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Annabelle Eriksen of Redwood Valley High School sings “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the four state cemeteries, worked with county, tribal and federal interests to make the Redwood Falls cemetery happen.

“This will be a place of dignity and respect to honor those who served for years to come,” said Interim Commissioner Brad Lindsay.

He thanked the Redwood County Board of Commissioners, Redwood County Administrator Vicki Kletscher and former Redwood County Veteran Service Officer Marty Caraway. Caraway now is a strategic adviser with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and lives in the District of Columbia area. He returned for the dedication ceremony.

The Redwood Falls Memorial Rifle Squad fires a three-round volley.
The Redwood Falls Memorial Rifle Squad fires a three-round volley.

Lindsay said the three prior state cemeteries have won awards for excellence consistently and said it would not be long until the Redwood Falls cemetery also garners awards.

“Excellence is our standard here,” he said.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Matt Quinn said this was the 122nd cemetery supported by the VA’s Veterans Cemetery Grants Program, which is supervised by the National Cemetery Administration.

More than 95 percent of Minnesota veterans have a state or national veterans cemetery within 75 miles of where they live, which Quinn said exceeds the national goal.

“Congratulations to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs,” he said.

Matt Quinn of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs speaks.
Matt Quinn of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs speaks while several officials behind him listen, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Interim Commissioner Brad Lindsay.

The ceremony recognized Rob Lesage, the former owner of the land. In addition to the property the county bought, Lesage donated an additional segment. He said his parents are buried at the veterans cemetery north of Little Falls.

David Swantek, deputy director of memorial affairs for the MDVA, said, “I like to encourage people to think of it not just as a cemetery but as a monument.”

Scheduling of burials began Aug. 21.