Duluth News Tribune: Proposed veterans cemetery gets $8M grant
Plans for a new state veterans cemetery near Duluth received a financial boost Thursday.
Elected officials announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs awarded an $8.3 million grant to establish the cemetery in Duluth.
Officials had previously announced, as reported in the News Tribune last year, that the cemetery would be on a 104-acre parcel along U.S. Highway 53 south of Pike Lake in Grand Lake Township. The grant is expected to pay for the development of buildings, facilities, burial spaces and supporting infrastructure on 19 acres of the new cemetery.
"It's been in the works for a long time, much longer than we would have hoped, but it's definitely not something that's been put on the back burner," state veterans cemeteries director David Swantek said last year.
U.S. Army veteran and Duluth Honor Guard Capt. John Marshall said Thursday that the new cemetery will allow veterans in northern Minnesota to have a final resting place closer to their loved ones. The Duluth Honor Guard provides the military funeral honors at about 200 veterans' funerals in Minnesota every year.
"Many of these widows, they're not capable of traveling great distances or can't deal with that kind of traffic, so by having their loved ones interred here, they will be able to visit them more frequently," Marshall said. "It's just a really nice thing to have a veterans cemetery here in northern Minnesota because so many times I see these widows and children and families watching their loved one being driven off by a funeral home director to go to Fort Snelling, and they just don't see them anymore, or if they do, it's very rare and infrequent."
A state veterans cemetery is in Little Falls, a 150-mile drive from Duluth, and a new state veterans cemetery opened recently near Preston in southeastern Minnesota. A national veterans cemetery is at Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities.
Marshall noted that a fundraiser will begin in the coming months to create and install a monument honoring veterans at the new Duluth veterans cemetery.
In a statement, Minnesota's congressional delegation applauded Thursday's funding announcement. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken noted that the grant will better serve and honor veterans, and that it shows that the Department of Veterans Affairs listened to the needs of the residents. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan noted that serving veterans is an important duty.
"This Duluth cemetery for military veterans will help us continue honoring and recognizing our brave men and women after they have passed away, and will allow families to keep them close while paying tribute to their service," Nolan said in a statement.