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Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum moves closer to breaking ground

More than 100 people gathered for a “Mission Brief” event Sept. 14, at the 34th Infantry Division Headquarters in Arden Hills to hear about the $33 million project.

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Aerial view of Camp Ripley near Little Falls.
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LITTLE FALLS — The Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum released plans for its new facility just outside Camp Ripley in Little Falls, with a grand opening tentatively set for the spring of 2025.

More than 100 people gathered for a “Mission Brief” event Sept. 14 at the 34th Infantry Division Headquarters in Arden Hills to hear about the $33 million project, which includes a 40,000-square-foot facility set on 32 acres. It will be located just outside Camp Ripley to maintain easy access by the public, a news release stated.

The event program featured guest author Elliot Ackerman, as well as comments by retired Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, Vietnam veteran Bill Strusinski and Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke.

“This event was a special way to bring our supporters, lawmakers, donors and volunteers together in one place,” stated Randal Dietrich, executive director of the Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum, in the release. “We anticipate offering this format annually to keep our partners and the public informed of progress. It’s been an honor to witness Minnesotans mobilize for this project — which is focused on celebrating and remembering our military history.”

The current museum inside the gates of Camp Ripley has been open 40 years and has developed a reputation among its guests and veterans alike that Dietrich hopes will transfer over to the new facility.

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Dietrich said groundbreaking is planned for the summer of 2023. The new museum will be built near highways 371 and 115.

“Being right along the highway, you'll be able to enter the museum without having to pass through security, providing much greater access to Minnesota's military history,” Dietrich said in an interview. “So it's a game changer for us and I think something that will be a significant draw.”

Although last year’s bonding bill included $10 million for the project, the session ended without the passage of a bonding bill. In addition to working closely with lawmakers for the coming legislative session, the museum board is seeking $5 million from private donors. The museum has raised more than $18 million thus far.

“When complete, this project will honor all branches of service, both past and present,” Dietrich stated in the release. “It will also truly represent a community effort, encompassing funds and support from federal, state, community and private funding sources.”

As part of this planning process, the board and planners traveled to some of the best museums in the country, spoke with veterans in Minnesota and beyond, and ultimately enlisted HGA Architects to help lead the design.

The museum has continued to focus on living history and telling the stories of 9/11. A special post-9/11 exhibition debuted last year for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at the state Capitol. Throughout the year it made several stops, including Duluth and Mankato. The final stop of the year was the mission brief event in Arden Hills.

In addition to the post-9/11 exhibition, there are a number of important artifacts Dietrich and the museum board view as critical to building a world-class museum.

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Military and Veterans Museum welcomed the sail and rudder from the famed USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul. The USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul was a nuclear-powered submarine in service between 1984 and 2008. It was the first vessel of the U.S. Navy to be named for the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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Known with the hull classification of SSN-708, the submarine served with distinction in Operation Desert Shield and the First Gulf War. It was the first submarine to carry Tomahawk missiles specifically designated for use in strikes against Iraq.

Donating their time and equipment, St. Cloud-based Anderson Trucking Service transported the pieces from Washington to Minnesota.

“This project is a great opportunity to show our support for Veterans and military personnel,” stated Scott Anderson, executive vice president and chief administration officer of Anderson Trucking Service, in the release. “We are honored to assist with this amazing addition to the Minnesota Military & Veterans Museum and can’t wait to see it come to fruition. Many of our drivers and employees are Veterans, and this is one way that we can honor their service and show how grateful we are.”

The conning tower and rudder of the submarine will receive extensive renovation over the next two years.

In a letter to Navy Program Manager Curtis A. Brown, Gov. Tim Walz wrote, “The sail and rudder will be a fantastic addition to the museum and serve as a reminder to generations of Minnesotans of the service and sacrifices made by the men and women of the United States Navy to preserve our freedom.”

Visit www.mnmilitarymuseum.org for more information.

Related Topics: LITTLE FALLSCAMP RIPLEY
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