A crowd of over 300 Veterans, families, and Veteran stakeholders brave rainy weather to celebrate the dedication of the nation’s newest national cemetery in Fargo, N.D.
The Fargo VA National Cemetery is now open.
At the dedication, VA Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves told the crowd that “no Veteran will ever die again.” Immediately, the crowd thought he might have misspoken.
Reeves’ remark grabbed everyone’s attention. He continued: a person only really dies when they–and their unique story–are forgotten. The Under Secretary said everyone has two deaths. One is when they take their last breath. “They die what we call the second death when we don’t talk about them, or we don’t tell their story,” Reeves said.
Veterans from across North Dakota, eastern Minnesota, and even one Marine Corps Veteran from Winnipeg, Canada, braved frigid showers to dedicate the 4.2-acre site. The Fargo VA National Cemetery will serve as the final resting place for 30,000 Veterans and their families.
“We as a nation are meeting our commitment because we have a very sacred responsibility and an obligation to honor those who have served. We also have an obligation to ensure our family members who are left behind know their family member will never be forgotten.” – Randy Reeves, VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs
Gathered under a steel gray morning sky, the attendees’ hearts swelled with pride at the opening of the dedication ceremony. Vocalist Joe Vene delivered a stirring rendition of the national anthem, accompanied by the Red River Valley Veterans Concert Band.
Randy Reeves, VA’s Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs; Jim Wartski VA’s Veteran Experience Office; and Les Beavers, past president of NASDVA, meet before the ceremony begins.
Under Secretary Reeves and Jim Wartski of VA’s Veterans Experience Office, presented Connie Sprynczynatyk, the chair of the North Dakota Cares Coalition (ND Cares) Community Veterans Engagement Board (CVEB), a certificate of appreciation signed by the VA Secretary designating Fargo, N.D., a Veteran Friendly Community.
Wartski praised ND Cares for its service to Veterans, service members, family members, and survivors. He stated the strong partnership between VA and community helps ensure Veterans benefit from a full spectrum of support.
The ND Cares CVEB shares a common interest in strengthening an accessible support network for Veterans across the state. The ND Cares Coalition resolves barriers or gaps in services. Its mission ensures that those who are serving–or who have served–receive the behavior health care and assistance they need.
The Fargo VA National Cemetery, located at 8709 40th Ave. N. in Harwood, began construction in spring of 2018 and is now officially open.
Prior to this opening, North Dakota was one of only 10 states that didn’t have a national Veterans cemetery. The cemetery will be home to about 3,204 grave sites. The new cemetery will be operated remotely by officials at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Click here for more on VA burial benefits or here to find a VA National Cemetery.
David L. Francavilla is a retired Army Colonel who has worked at VA for 15 years. He currently works for VA’s Veterans Experience Office.