Several elected officials were on hand Saturday, Sept. 7, for the formal ceremony that opened the Fargo National Cemetery, 8709 40th Ave. N. in Harwood, N.D.

The cemetery is North Dakota’s first national cemetery.

Prior to the new cemetery being constructed, North Dakota was one of only 10 states to not have a national veterans cemetery. It is part of the VA National Cemetery Administration’s Rural Initiative to provide access to VA burial benefits for veterans who live in rural areas and haven’t previously had reasonable access to a national or state veterans cemetery.

All members and veterans of the armed forces are eligible to be buried in a VA national cemetery if they have met minimum active-duty service requirements and were not dishonorably discharged. The 4.82-acre cemetery will be home to about 3,204 gravesites.

Speakers at the ceremony included Gov. Doug Burgum, Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and the Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Randy Reeves.

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“We are deeply grateful to the National Cemetery Administration, our congressional delegation and all others who worked to establish the Fargo National Cemetery, which along with the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in Mandan will give our veterans the respect and final resting place close to home that they so richly deserve,” Burgum said in a statement.

“The best way to remember those who offered to die for our country is to celebrate the freedoms they volunteered to give their lives to protect,” Cramer said in a statement.

“Bringing this VA National Cemetery to Harwood is one more part of our efforts to ensure our veterans receive the recognition they deserve,” Hoeven said in a statement. “Its presence will allow North Dakotans who have served to be laid to rest with honor, while being close enough to their homes for family and loved ones to easily visit and pay their respects. I appreciate the NCA for working with us to advance this project.”

The new cemetery will be operated remotely by officials at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis.