SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Construction at the site of South Dakota’s first State Veterans Cemetery in northeast Sioux Falls is making a lot of progress. Since the groundbreaking last September, machines have moved a lot of dirt. The location looks a lot different now, as crews should have it ready to open sometime next spring.
What once was a farmer’s field is now transforming into sacred ground for local Veterans.
“Fast forward to today and you can see behind me that we’ve got buildings going up and a lot of dirt has been moved. It just looks like a completely different site,” Aaron Pollard with the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs said.
Pollard has been a part of the project since the beginning. A Veteran himself, he knows what it will mean for the community when it’s complete.
“It’s pretty heartwarming. Every time I come out here, it’s a little bit further along and I can conceptualize a little better what it’s going to look like once it’s complete. Every time I’m out here it kind of takes my breathe away and I realize what this is morphing into and what it’s going to mean for the Veterans of South Dakota and the Veterans across the country that want to be buried here,” Pollard said.
Several local crews are taking part in the special project from Stockwell Engineers to Journey Construction. Landscape Architect David Locke says for being in Sioux Falls, the site provides plenty of hills and trees.
“There’s a lot of topography to the site, a lot of grade change. When it’s all said and done, when you come into the site you’ll be looking up to the committal service shelter that you can kind of see the roof,” Locke said.
“So it will be pretty breathtaking coming in and being able to have that view looking up to the committal service shelter and the service flags that will be on top of the hill,” Locke said.
Both of Locke’s grandfathers served in the military. He says it’s very meaningful to him to help create what will be a “state shrine” to Veterans.
“As a family, it was important to us. Our family vacations consisted of going to different battlefields on the east coast,” Locke said.
“It’s something that I’m very proud to be a part of and I can’t wait to see it finished,” Locke said.
Journey Construction is currently working on the storm sewer infrastructure, utilities, roads and more.
“This is the admin building. It will host the conference room, director, locker rooms,”Journey Construction superintendent Chad Munce said.
It’s a rare cemetery project for Munce. The superintendent’s father served in the Air Force.
“Very unique. You don’t see many cemeteries get built these days, especially a VA cemetery. It’s near and dear to my heart. I told my dad I was coming out here to work and he was very interested in it right away,” Munce said.
Rain has delayed construction here and there and you can see there are plenty of puddles right now. Still, the State Veterans Cemetery should open next spring.
More than 100 families have pre-registered for spots. The 60-acres out here feature space for 28,000 grave sites according to the master plan.
“It offers a final resting place closer to home for those who would normally want to choose a national cemetery option or a Veterans cemetery,” Pollard said.
Sitting just to the northeast of where Interstates 229 and 90 meet, Pollard says the peaceful setting is a perfect location.
“It feels like this is where this cemetery belongs and that this property was put here for this cemetery. For anybody who has been out here and I think walked around on the grounds, even when there’s construction equipment making noise behind me, it still feels like this is where the South Dakota Veterans Cemetery should be. I feel it every time I’m out here and it hasn’t changed. It’s only grown stronger as we’ve progressed,” Pollard said.