South Dakota’s First State Veterans Cemetery Breaks Ground
MAPLETON TOWNSHIP, S.D.– It was a rainy morning but that wasn’t going to stop a vision that started over 25 years ago. Now, South Dakota’s first State Veterans Cemetery has become a reality.
Governor Kristi Noem says building this cemetery will show that we honor the sacrifices they’ve made, “No matter what the weather looks like, no matter what’s going on we still get our work done and we still know what’s really important in life is people,” adding, “They shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles and hours so visit and pay their respects to loved ones. This is long overdue. I think we’re down to one of the last five or six states to get a state veterans cemetery.”
The funding will develop about 12.9 acres. The plot of land, donated by the city of Sioux Falls, sits north of the I-229 and I-90 interchange off of slip up creek road and 477th avenue. But, the location of this cemetery has more meaning behind it. Mike Fitzmaurice, an army veteran, says he has family buried in the cemetery in Sturgis, so it’ll be nice to finally have one close to home, “This is really a dream come true for our end of the state.”
South Dakota is home to more than 72,000 veterans and 50,000 of them reside in the eastern part of the state. With the nearest national cemeteries being in Sturgis or Ft. Snelling Minnesota, Veterans and their families had no choice but to drive hundreds of miles to visit and pay their respects to their loved ones.”I suppose within a few years, we’ll be right here. It’ll make it just a lot better for everybody,” says Fitzmaurice.
Aaron Pollard, Deputy Secretary for the State Department of Veterans Affairs, says the goal is to be done by spring of 2021, “We hope to really start moving dirt here October, November time-frame and then from that point the cemetery is going to take about 12 to 18 months to construct.”
“So many of these folks worked so hard to get this accomplished and I mean it’s just got to make the heart feel good,” added Fitzmaurice.