Groundbreaking held for new veterans cemetery

Published 5:12 pm Saturday, November 9, 2013

PRESTON — Veterans from all over southeastern Minnesota and representatives from service organizations gathered in Preston Friday during a groundbreaking ceremony at the state’s new veterans cemetery.

Austin American Legion Post 91 Commander Rollie Hanson was impressed with the site, he said. Other local leaders, such as the DAV commander, Mower County Veterans Memorial Committee chairman, Mower veterans services director and more attended the ceremony. Rollie said much of the American Legion First District attended the event, as well.

The new cemetery will be the burial site for many veterans from southeastern Minnesota, northern Iowa and western Wisconsin. The state veterans cemetery in Little Falls was previously the only Minnesota state veterans cemetery.

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The project is the result of cooperation on several government levels: Fillmore County, the state of Minnesota and the federal government. The 169-acre site was donated by Fillmore County and is located just off Highway 52 in Preston. The Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery had been eyeing a site in southeastern Minnesota since 2007, said Director David Swantek. In early October, MDVA received approval of the $10-million construction grant from the Federal Cemetery Administration for the project.

County veterans services are a contact point for those inquiring to be buried there. People may also contact the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls. Funeral homes can also help with arrangements.

The project itself has a way to go. It will be built in 10-year phases, which could go quicker. Phase 1 will develop about 28 acres and include burial sites for nearly 3,500 veterans, a main entrance, cortege assembly area, administration building, maintenance facility, roads, assembly area, committal shelter, pre-placed crypts, cremation burial areas, columbarium, landscaping and a memorial walk.

Olympic Builders General Contractors, Inc. was awarded the construction grant. The overall project budget is $10.1 million, with construction costs of $8.2 million. Design work has been led by Stantec, an engineering and design firm in St. Paul.