When Elmer Kummala learned a third Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery was opening in Duluth, the Air Force veteran made it clear he wanted to be buried there. Though the cemetery wasn’t officially open when he died in February, his family was still able to grant his wish.

“My dad was the 37th person buried there,” said Debbie Scheer who lives in Cloquet. “We’re just grateful that it is so close, it gives all of us a chance to visit. If he had been buried anywhere else my mom wouldn’t have been able to make the trip.”

Allowing veterans a final resting place close to home is one of the goals of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Before the $9.2 million Duluth cemetery had its first burial exactly a year ago, the closest national veterans cemetery was Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, 160 miles away. The closest state one was in Spooner, Wis., 90 miles away.

In its first year, 214 people have been buried at the 104-acre cemetery, which was officially dedicated in September, with pomp, speeches, including from Gov. Tim Walz, and family visits. Scheer’s granddaughter sang “You Are My Sunshine” to her grand grandfather’s tombstone. It was a song they used to sing together. “It was very touching,” Scheer said.

Her family plans to visit his grave again today on Veterans Day. No events are planned there for Veterans Day, but visitors are welcome seven days a week during daylight hours.