Peterson Applauds Federal Grant for Redwood County Veterans Cemetery
(Washington, DC) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration (NCA) has announced a $5.9 million grant for the creation of the State Veterans Cemetery in Redwood County.
Representative Collin Peterson applauds the decision that would serve more than 22,000 veterans, their spouses and eligible family members. As a veteran of the National Guard and a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Peterson has worked on the federal level to secure this award.
“It is very important to me that those who have served our nation are honored throughout their lives and are laid to rest with the respect and appreciation they deserve,” Peterson said. “It’s taken over 10 years of relentless advocacy by many people and groups to get to this point. I’m honored that I could help in the effort to get federal funding for this important project.”
Peterson added, “I remain committed to supporting our veterans and prioritizing projects like this and the veterans homes proposed for Minnesota. It’s why I sought my seat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.”
When veterans asked for Congressman Peterson’s support at a March 2019 town hall in Redwood County, Peterson made this project a priority at the federal level. He raised the project at Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings with Secretary Wilkie, and advocated for the project in meetings with the VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves and Veterans Cemetery Grant Program Director George Eisenbach. The Congressman made federal funding for programs that serve veterans his top priority in the appropriations process.
Acceptance of this NCA grant opportunity begins a year-long process in design, planning and hopefully the final award of the grant dollars to MDVA at the start of federal fiscal year 2022, which begins October 1, 2021. MDVA is working with Redwood County officials to confirm the state’s ownership of the property as a first step.
There have been hurdles at all levels throughout the decade-long process to get funding for this Veterans Cemetery. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs deferred prior opportunities to move this project forward with the National Cemetery Administration, and the White House previously chose to not fund this project as well.
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke: “We appreciate the NCA’s support in expanding the State Veterans Cemeteries in Minnesota. This grant funding is an important first step in making this new cemetery a reality.”
Curt Hermanson, VFW State Commander: We thank Representative Peterson for cutting through bureaucratic red tape to secure the much needed funding for the new veterans cemetery in Redwood Falls. This accomplishment is important for veterans and their families throughout the entire south west Minnesota area.
Mark Dvorak, American Legion Department of Minnesota Commander:“The time is now to fund the Redwood Falls Veterans Cemetery. This community has an outstanding track record of supporting veterans and their families. Meanwhile, expansions to other cemeteries, rather than new ones, have been funded. The need for a veterans cemetery in this part of Minnesota is necessary, and expanding far-away cemeteries won’t cut it. We are grateful to U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson for his work on this matter.”
Dustin Hunter, Redwood County Veterans Service Officer:“It is great to know that the 22,198 unserved Veterans in SW MN are going to have the Benefit of this vital Veteran’s Cemetery. Some Veterans have lost hope over the process but now that hope, has changed to cheers.”
Lisa Klenk, MACVSO, Sibley County Veterans Service Officer:"Having a Veteran Cemetery in southwest Minnesota enables Veterans families the opportunity to visit their loved ones resting place more frequently." This will also give families more options for their Veterans resting place."
Greg Peterson, President of the Minnesota Association of County Veterans Service Officers:“We are jubilant of news from the National Cemetery Administration to partner with the MN Department in Veterans Affairs in placing a Veterans Cemetery in South Western Minnesota. The majestic landscape of the Minnesota River Valley nearby Redwood Falls is the perfect location for our noble and valiant Veterans to rest in perpetuity with their brothers and sisters in arms. We eagerly look forward to the groundbreaking in 2021 and certainly the cemetery’s completion and dedication thereafter. Veterans who wish to be buried there should consider completing a pre-registration to determine their eligibility. People should call 1-888-LinkVet (1-888-546-5838) or find their Service Officer at www.macvso.org”
A long path to securing the Redwood County Veterans Cemetery Award:
- Advocates have been fighting for over a decade for the Redwood County Veterans Cemetery before funds were finally secured.
- Between 2009 and 2012, the state deferred three federal funding opportunities for the project. During this time, other veterans cemeteries in Minnesota were funded and built (Preston opened in 2015 and Duluth in 2018). Local project sponsors never gave up.
- January 2019 – Congressman Peterson secures a waiver to join the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs so that Minnesota has a committee representative for veterans
- March 2019 – Congressman Peterson hosted a series of Town Hall for veterans. During the town hall meeting in Redwood Falls the status of Redwood County Cemetery’s grant application is raised, and veterans request Congressman Peterson’s assistance to get the project built.
- March 2019 – Peterson’s office follows up by working with House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) to rush a request with National Cemetery Administration (NCA) – NCA replies with info on how their priority lists work and shares information about the history of the project, including deferments.
- April 2019 – Congressman Peterson sets up a meeting with Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves to discuss the Redwood Cemetery and the National Cemetery Administration. The Undersecretary has the responsibility for signing off the Priority List for which projects get funded. A future meeting is set up.
- June 2019 – Peterson’s office receives a briefing with Veterans Cemetery Grant Program Director George Eisenbach.
- July 11, 2019 – Congressman Peterson meets with VA Under Secretary Reeves asking for his assistance to ensure that this project is prioritized for limited federal funding. A key takeaway from the meeting is the need to improve communication between all parties to ensure that deadlines are met, the project is best positioned for favorable consideration, and the project falls within the funding cap to be eligible. The deadline for the proposal submission is August 15, 2019 for consideration in the next fiscal year.
- July-Sept 2019 – Peterson’s office seeks additional information from Program Director George Eisenbach about the target project number for the Redwood Cemetery and communicate with county and state officials.
- September 2019 – Congressman Peterson speaks at dedication of Fargo National Cemetery on the importance of honoring our veterans.
- September 10, 2019 – Congressman Peterson provides an official Statement for the Record for the HVAC Member Day Hearing on the importance of funding for Veteran homes and cemeteries (attached).
- October 2019 – Peterson’s office seeks update from the Program Director on status of FY20 priority list.
- Veterans Day 2019 – Congressman Peterson shares his priorities for veterans including the Redwood Cemetery at the Committee’s Member Day Statement.
- November 2019 – During a Vietnam Veteran Pin delivery, Congressman Peterson asks VA about the status of Redwood. NCA follows up later with a briefing. They are not clear about if Redwood received an award.
- December 2019 – In response to request for clarity, VA sends program directors’ info.
- January 2020 – Peterson office seeks update from Program Director and learn that the Redwood Cemetery was not funded. Peterson’s office holds planning session with the House Appropriations Committee on Peterson’s veterans’ priorities including the Redwood Cemetery.
- February 2020 - Congressman Peterson drafts Op-Ed: Delays in Redwood Veterans Cemetery are unacceptable.
- February 2020 - Congressman Peterson submits questions at the Budget Hearing with VA Secretary Wilkie covering the priority list for state veterans homes and the need for additional federal resources in order complete the Redwood Cemetery.
- March 2020 - Congressman Peterson makes Veterans Cemetery funding one of his top priorities in the Appropriations process and requests bumping up funding from $45 million to $70 million given the number has been stagnant for many years while our veterans are aging.
- August – October 2020: Redwood County reaches out to Peterson’s office for an update on their project. His office connects with the Program Director on its timeline and prospects. The State shares that on August 5, 2020 they had requested an increase for Redwood County proposal in the amount of $9.9 million (up from recommended $5.99 mil). Peterson office follows up with the Program Director again and VA Congressional Affairs on questions about project’s position on the priority ranking list.
- October 2020 – The State officially received a Grant Opportunity to build the Redwood Cemetery and accepts the federal funding.
The House Veterans' Affairs Committee held a full committee hearing with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie titled “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2021.”