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Thursday, September 18th, 2014
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Congressional Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing in Preston

Posted in Preston Features

Subcommittee Chairman Jon Runyan, Fillmore County Commissioner Chuck Amunrud, and Congressman Tim Walz conducted a hearing on May 14 in the Fillmore County Board room to discuss the possibilities of establishing a new state run veterans cemetary in Preston. Photo by Karen Reisner

Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), a member of the subcommittee, conducted a hearing on May 14 in the Fillmore County Board room. They discussed the process to establish new state run veterans cemeteries and the federal veterans cemetery grant program. Walz maintained veterans “deserve a final resting place that will both honor their memory and give them peace of mind in knowing they will be close to family and loved ones.”

The room was overflowing with elected officials, staff personnel, veterans, and press. The congressmen were interested in how the process went forward with the proposal for a State Veterans Cemetery in Fillmore County.

The Fillmore County Board had expressed its willingness to donate 155 acres of the county farm in early 2010. County Coordinator Karen Brown testified that all “veteran service groups and municipalities in the county were contacted and asked about their opinions about the cemetery.” There are thirty resolutions of support on file. There was community support to donate the land for a veterans cemetery. She noted that a report presented to the county board in 2010 produced by David Swantek, director of the State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls, found the veteran population in southeast Minnesota to be underserved.

Brown listed the events that have and will have to take place to make the proposed cemetery possible including the land donation, the support from local legislators to pass legislation to cover initial costs to evaluate the site, the willingness of state agencies to work together, the willingness of the federal government to provide grant funding to construct the cemetery, and the state being willing to fund the operation and maintenance of the cemetery.

After Brown and Amunrud testified, Walz asked how to start the process for state cemeteries in other areas. Amunrud insisted it is essential for the community to make an investment. He said the process has been fair and we have been kept informed.

Past State Commander of VFW Stephen O’Connor said the construction of the proposed cemetery has been made possible with the combined efforts of the Fillmore County commissioners, local veteran’s organizations, the state legislature, the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs and local communities. The ability of these .....
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