Preston, MN (KROC AM News) - Years of planning, work and lining up the financial pieces came to an end Sunday when Minnesota’s second state veterans cemetery was formally dedicated in Preston.  

Preston veterans cemetery-
photo by Kim David/Townsquare Media

Hundreds turned out for the afternoon event at the cemetery located at the edge of the Fillmore County town and the only blemish was a light, passing rain shower that lasted just a few minutes.

One of the speakers was First District Congressman Tim Walz, who gave a stirring speech.


Congressman Tim Walz-photo by Kim David/Townsquare Media

Walz was one of those instrumental in securing federal funds for the project, which came after he held a congressional field hearing in Preston four years ago and received input from local leaders and veterans.   

State Representative Greg Davids of Preston started the ball rolling when he first proposed the cemetery nine years ago. Davids - who was also at the dedication ceremony  - says momentum for the project really began to build after Governor Dayton gave his support. The final piece was a decision by the Fillmore County Board to donate the 170 acres for the cemetery.  

Rep. Greg Davids with proclamation-
photo by Kim David/Townsquare Media

The project’s cost of $10.7 million was mostly paid for by the federal government. Work on the project began in 2013 and the first burials took place last Veterans Day when two former Preston mayors were laid to rest at the cemetery. The crowd was told plans are now being made to build the third state veterans cemetery in Duluth. Others will follow.  

During a pause in the program for the flyover of three vintage military airplanes, the crowd was asked to sing “happy birthday” to one of the many elderly veterans who were in attendance. Ernie Gross is a World War Two vet who was celebrating his 101st birthday Monday.

The cemetery is designed to accommodate as many as 35,000 veterans and spouses or eligible dependants. It will be operated by the state Department of Veterans Affairs.  

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Here are photos of the dedication ceremony and grounds.