Groundbreaking for the new veterans cemetery coming to Fillmore County began in November of last year. Because of the winter, construction remained limited to grading the rough elevations and removing trees. However, once spring arrives, construction will begin in earnest by Olympic Builders General Contractors, Inc., a construction company from Wisconsin.

Jason Marquardt, the Veterans Services officer from Fillmore County, updated members of the Preston Chamber of Commerce on the cemetery's progress during their annual meeting last Tuesday evening. He said the hope is to employ some local subcontractors for the cemetery, which will serve as an additional economic boost to the community. The construction timeline, barring any difficulties, includes a spring 2015 grand opening.

Many veterans expressed excitement for the cemetery coming to Preston and the honor to be buried with their brothers and sisters of the armed forces.

Marquardt said a few deceased veterans have been cremated and are waiting for burial at the time of the cemetery's completion. Others in the area have expressed interest and are including burial in the veterans cemetery as part of their funeral planning.

Marquardt explained there are several criteria for those who can be buried at this new cemetery. One is the person must be a veteran who has been honorably discharged from the service. Another is the person has been actively serving. Those in the Reserves are also qualified when they have served for 20 years. Spouses of veterans may also choose to be buried there, but this requires a $700 fee. Dependants may be buried there as well if they are mentally or physically disabled before the age of 18.

In order to apply, people should contact Marquardt for the application form.

Plans are made for pre-placed grave liners and double stacked grave plots. If a veteran dies and the spouse opts to be buried there as well, the spouse may be buried in the same place on top of the veteran. There are also special places in the plans for cremains to be interred. These would allow for more room within the cemetery since cremation plots would be closer together.

With these plans, the cemetery could fit in about 100 years worth of burials, Marquardt said.

Once the cemetery is operational, five burials per day would be the limit given the amount of equipment necessary to perform the task.

There would be no service at the gravesite, but held at a committal shelter located within the cemetery grounds. The deceased would receive an honor guard from one of the surrounding American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. With up to five ceremonies per day, Marquardt said they would be utilizing all the area honor guards so it does not become too burdensome for one local post.

A typical veteran's service would also include a 21-gun salute. "The committal would be just like you see on TV, with a perfect recording of 'Taps' played for every single burial," said Marquardt.

The cemetery is expected to employ six full-time workers. Two employees would perform office duties, while three other employees would be on the ground crew. The final employee may receive jobs in both areas. Job applications may be obtained by going to the State of Minnesota website. The first opening to be posted will be for the position of cemetery administrator.

Several businesses would be greatly affected by the coming of the cemetery to this area. The cemetery will try to buy as much soft items as possible throughout the county. This may include lawnmowers and fuel, which could come from Rushford or Spring Valley, for example. Florists in the area of the Little Falls, Minn., cemetery have shared that they saw an estimated increase of 10 times the business they have had in the past.

Marquardt also mentioned that he would hope the local hotels would be able to stay open all year long and see an increased occupancy and that the families coming into the community for a burial will need a place to gather. One Preston Chamber member mentioned Preston may need to take another look at establishing a community center.

With the coming of the cemetery to Fillmore County, many people are excited to honor this country's veterans for their service and sacrifice for the United States of America. This tribute for their selflessness is a thank you, however large or small, for their sacrifice.