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Final state veterans cemetery proposed near Bemidji

The state veterans cemetery in Preston.
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Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
The state veterans cemetery in Preston.

A bill written by state Rep. Matt Bliss, R-Pennington, would provide authorization for the fifth and final state veterans cemetery in the Bemidji area.

ST. PAUL — A final resting area for Northern Minnesota’s veterans may be in the works.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs wants to create a new state cemetery to serve the northwestern portion of the state, where families might currently have to drive for hours to visit a loved one’s grave.

Rep. Matt Bliss, R-Pennington, is the chief author of the bill and said the Bemidji area is an ideal location to reach veterans who are otherwise underserved.

Rep. Matt Bliss, R-Pennington.
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Minnesota House
Rep. Matt Bliss, R-Pennington.

"If you remember from previous sessions when we were looking at the veterans home, we had roughly 31,000 veterans in that area, so it'd be serving a large population of veterans,” Bliss said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs seeks to provide nearly all veterans with a dignified burial option within 75 miles of their homes. There are state cemeteries in Little Falls, Duluth, Preston and Redwood Falls, plus the national veterans’ cemetery at Fort Snelling and Fargo. But there's a gap for the northwestern Minnesota region.

“If approved, what this will allow us to do is really start to invest some staff resources and time into talking with our partners, whether it be the Department of Natural Resources or the county government up there, and looking at parcels of land that would be ideal for this,” said Andrew Jarvis, MDVA director of veterans and memorial affairs.

Jarvis said if approved, the next step after site identification would be submitting a pre-application to the National Cemetery Administration, which would provide the grant to construct the facility.

Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs program director Andrew Jarvis testifies to the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Monday, March 4.
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Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs program director Andrew Jarvis testifies to the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Monday, March 4.

The bill would authorize the state veterans department to move forward with the fifth and final veterans’ cemetery in Minnesota.

The Little Falls cemetery is the oldest, opened in 1994. The one in Preston opened in 2015, Duluth in 2018 and Redwood Falls last August.

The House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee adopted the bill and referred it to the Capital Investment Committee on Thursday, March 7.

Larissa Donovan has been in the Bemidji area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.