Questions are unanswered about Fort Snelling Cemetery

This article submitted by Nosza Piotrowski on 12/30/97.

Throughout civilized history, the placement of our deceased loved ones has been a sacred and ceremonial affair. In light of the discoveries at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, it would appear that its dignity is being undermined as the revelations and accusations of impropriety are mounting, gravediggers have found an assortment of buried debris, trash, and an eerie green tint of the soil, samples were taken, there is even the possibility of two 55 gallon drums of DDT somewhere on the premises, according to an article in the . The workers are concerned for their health. Still, many say this is a nonissue.

In defense of management, Steve Muro, the director of the cemetery, says itís true there is some debris on the premises, most of it from the construction of the airport, and it is beyond the depth that veterans are buried at. For him, Fort Snelling National Cemetery remains a hallowed sanctuary for those that served our country.

On Dec. 24, Kathy Carlson, a spokeswoman for the MPCA, said they will require cemetery officials to conduct soil and water tests, and dig trenches at the cemetery and other areas to determine whether there is contamination.

Local veterans are unwilling to rush to judgment. They feel there are too many gray areas, unanswered questions, and not enough information available. Relatives and friends of deceased veterans, who declined to be named, and who were pres-ent at funerals, have said that they didnít see anything unusual and are fairly certain their loved one is not in the contaminated area.

Locals were somewhat surprised at the accusations but the feeling around Paynesville is once they are laid to rest, itís final, no matter what kind of discoveries you make about the place later on. ďI think they should leave it alone...donít dig it upĒ, says Hubert Schwandt, Paynesville and an ex-POW veteran himself. Commander Joe Kremer of the Paynesville American Legion says the matter is under investigation and the Legion has taken ďno stand on the issueĒ at this time. Kremer said their stance was influenced by media reports that the people who have come forward with information are ďdisgruntled employees.Ē

According to Legion records, Paynesville has 28 veterans buried at Fort Snelling.

Editorís note: This matter is currently being investigated by the inspector generalís office of the U.S. Veteranís Affairs Department. The investigation is expected to be completed by mid-January.

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