Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of Nathan Pike, County Veteran Service Officer Olmsted County
From: Nathan D. Pike, Olmsted County Veteran Service Officer
First off, I would to thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to testify on behalf of over twenty-three thousand veterans and their families of southeast Minnesota which includes the following eight counties: Fillmore, Olmsted, Mower, Dodge, Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston. This is an excellent opportunity to testify on the important issues of gaining a veterans cemetery in Fillmore County.
My name is Nathan D. Pike. I am a veteran of the active Army and a retired Minnesota Army National Guard non-commissioned officer with over twenty-one years of service. I served two tours of duty in support of the KFOR operations in Kosovo and a tour as an embedded trainer to the Afghan National Army in 2005. I am also a service connected disabled veteran.
In the spring of 2010 I applied and received the job of Fillmore County Veteran Service Officer. In the summer of 2011 I started the position of County Veteran Service Officer in Olmsted County. I am a current resident of Fillmore County residing in Spring Valley. As a CVSO my job is to provide assistance to local veterans and their families with Department of Veterans’ Affairs benefits, state veteran benefits and anything remotely related to veteran issues and concerns for the veterans and their families of Olmsted County, Minnesota.
My first point I would like to address; it is my belief and that of many other veterans, that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs holds the responsibility of caring for the service member upon discharge (veteran) to grave, and if need be, assisting the surviving widow/widower with benefits should they (surviving family members) be eligible for said VA benefits. The VA can easily serve the veterans of southeast Minnesota with a veteran’s cemetery to be specifically located in Fillmore County. The Fillmore County Board of Commissioners has graciously authorized the donation of land for this project. The excellent support is evident within the veteran service organizations of Fillmore County which includes the Fillmore County Council of the American Legion (the oldest Legion county council in the Nation) as well as unanimous support from the people and towns of Fillmore County. Even southeast Minnesota’s largest print media Rochester
Post Bulletin has endorsed the idea of a veteran’s cemetery in Fillmore County. Providing a veterans cemetery in Fillmore County has the potential of serving over 23,626 veterans and eligible family members for the benefit of burial in a veteran cemetery. I researched the number of veterans from the American Community Survey from 2010 which provided the current and most relevant data that I could find concerning veteran population in southeast Minnesota. The committee should also take into account that even with the Iraq War done there will be more veterans returning to southeast Minnesota; most notably the return of Minnesota’s Army National Guard First Brigade of the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division from their deployment in Iraq and Kuwait making the returning soldiers to be considered as veterans. Between the eight counties of southeast Minnesota that I have mentioned, there are two Infantry companies and two support companies all of the Minnesota Army National Guard, and Reserve units which has two company sized units in the Rochester area.
The second point for a veterans’ cemetery in Fillmore County that should be addressed is that there is an opportunity for work through the construction process of said cemetery which in turn would provide some economic stimulus to Fillmore County. Whether the work is provided through local contractors or otherwise there will be a need for the workers to have access to local businesses for a variety of needs. After the cemetery is completed there would be the added benefit of jobs provided by having an active cemetery that could possibly employ up to a dozen people. A good, economic, unintended consequence with the addition of the cemetery there will be the many visitors that would be expected to visit during special holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. The visitors in turn would spend money in the local economy as they are travelling through Fillmore County.
Here are my final thoughts to reiterate my two my points of why a veteran’s cemetery in Fillmore County, Minnesota, the first is that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has the responsibility of caring for veterans and their families from discharge to death. The veterans’ cemetery would well be suited for a final resting place for our nation’s veterans. The land is free and there would be economic stimulus to a rural county that is need of such stimulus. I can tell that while working as the Fillmore County veteran service officer I knew of three families that are patiently waiting for the creation of the proposed site so they can bury the cremated remains of the veteran loved ones; and finally the veteran cemetery is in my own end-of-life plans for a final resting place.
Again thank you for this opportunity to discuss the important issue of a veterans’ cemetery for Fillmore County, Minnesota.
If you have any questions I will kindly answer them.