Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (S. 35) Bill to Double Size of Black Hills Veterans Cemetery

Black Hills National Cemetery

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) issued the following statements after the U.S. House of Representatives passed their bill, the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (S. 35), legislation that will facilitate a permanent land transfer of approximately 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery outside of Sturgis, South Dakota. The bill, which the senators reintroduced during the first week of the 115th Congress, passed the Senate by voice vote in December 2017. Their bill now heads to the president for his signature.

“Our veterans deserve a resting place as majestic and solemn as the Black Hills National Cemetery, and I’m glad this important, years-long initiative that will help to continue honoring our heroes – now and for generations to come – is finally nearing the finish line,” said Thune. “It’s a small yet meaningful gesture for the men and women who gave far more than we’ll ever be able to repay.”

“It’s important that South Dakota’s veterans know there will be space for them to rest peacefully at the Black Hills National Cemetery,” said Rounds. “I am pleased that our commonsense legislation to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery passed the House today, and will now head to the president’s desk to be signed into law.”

“Wyoming is one of the few states without a VA National Cemetery, so I am glad that Congress was able to pass this legislation to ensure we are working to provide a resting place for Wyoming’s veterans,” said Enzi. “Veterans and their families deserve to know that there will always be a place where their families can honor their legacy for generations to come. I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law soon.”

Under current law, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years. The Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act will make this particular transfer permanent.

Thune Greets South Dakota Veterans at D.C. War Memorials

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today greeted veterans from across the Midwest, including 45 South Dakotans, who were in Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials honoring their service and sacrifice to the nation. The Midwest Honor Flight program coordinated today’s visit to Washington.

“It’s an opportunity for us to be able to say ‘thank you’ to all of these veterans from so many generations for their service and sacrifice on behalf of our country,” said Thune. “They answered the call to duty at that critical moment in history when it was important that people be willing to defend our freedoms, so when these groups come out here – the chance to be able to come down here and express on behalf of a grateful nation our gratitude to them is a really neat opportunity and an honor.

“It’s really special. I have a lot of family connections to service and our country – and my dad, of course, he’s 98 years old, a World War II veteran and still going strong. I remember when we had the chance to bring him out here a few years ago and let him see the World War II Memorial that honors those who served from his generation and sacrificed from that great conflict. So any time we have the chance to recognize our veterans, to say ‘thank you’ to our veterans, we as a society, I believe, owe them a great debt of gratitude, and it’s important for us to do that.”


South Dakota Congressional Candidate Neal Tapio Said Terrorist Attack Would Help Him Win Primary

By Kevin Robillard

A GOP candidate running for South Dakota’s lone seat in Congress said last year that a terrorist attack would help him win a contested primary, and also suggested members of the U.S. military are “mercenaries for Saudi Arabia.”

In audio obtained by HuffPost, state Sen. Neal Tapio said in a recorded conversation in the state capitol of Pierre that “there will be one more terrorist attack between now and then and I will be the, just by the Trump effect, I will be the candidate.”

“I can start in a little town like Aberdeen outside of the media glare. I can move it to Watertown, practice a little more, and then by the time I get to Souix Falls, I will have said this thousands of times. And then Dusty is just going to be so far behind, that they won’t even realize we are running for the same race. And then all that has to happen is that there will be one more terrorist attack between now and then and I will be the, just by the Trump effect, I will be the candidate. That’s the way I look at it.”

In another snippet of recorded conversation, Tapio says he wouldn’t let one of his children serve in the military, and implies U.S. military operations in the Middle East are waged for the benefit of Saudi Arabia.

“We both agree that we wouldn’t want our kids to serve in the military even with Trump as president. You just are giving up your life to be mercenaries for Saudi Arabia”

Tapio was the state director for Trump’s presidential bid and is selling “Mt. Trumpmore” T-shirts to support his campaign. He is running against Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and businessman Dusty Johnson, who was chief of staff for former South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, in a three-way primary. The winner of the June 5 primary is expected to win the general election in the heavily Republican state.

Tapio’s comments on the terrorist attack were first reported by KELO, a news radio station. It’s not clear to whom Tapio was speaking. In responses to both KELO and HuffPost, Tapio did not deny the recording was his voice.

In April, Tapio posted a response on his Facebook page to KELO’s questions about the recording. “Terror has something to do with Islam. Nobody dares say this in public. I do,” he wrote.

However, he took issue with a question asking whether he thought a terror attack would help his campaign.

“To suggest I am advocating for a terror attack is a disgusting smear and you should be ashamed of yourself,” he wrote. “Anyone that would even suggest that is a vile and disgusting individual not worthy of being taken seriously.”

In an email to HuffPost, Tapio said his comments on mercenaries were meant to sympathize with U.S. troops, who he said have suffered since the beginnings of the war on terror 17 years ago.

He also said political leaders calling Islam a “religion of peace” meant ceding “the moral high ground of freedom,” and “[u]ntil we face the truth about the root cause of terrorism, we will never win this war.”

“I don’t think it’s controversial to speak the truth about the manipulations and unarticulated objectives of the Obama-Hillary Clinton foreign policy,” he said.

“The result in every conflict in the Bush-Obama era has been regime change that has left the most radicalized and dangerous elements of Muslim leadership in charge of entire nations,” he added.

Here’s Tapio’s full response:

America and the Western world have been fighting an endless war on terror since September 11, 2001. At a cost of nearly $7 trillion, this war has nearly bankrupted our nation. The financial cost fails to account for the heavy long term physical and mental toll on millions of service members and their families.

Shamefully, we don’t even dare call this war by it’s proper name, “the global war against Islamic terrorism.” Failure to properly identify the enemy is a slap in the face to every service member who has served and to all the military families who have sacrificed so much in this endless war. Worse, when our political and religious leaders tell us ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and ‘terror has nothing to do with Islam,’ America cedes the moral high ground of freedom, and we no longer become a beacon of hope to all those living under a hateful and deadly ideology that punishes or kills them for leaving Islam. Until we face the truth about the root cause of terrorism, we will never win this war.

Many military families are asking, ‘for what purpose are we sacrificing American lives in this war?’ It is our duty as a country to clearly identify the enemy and clearly outline the path to victory. Only then can we ask a service member to place their life in danger.

President Trump is fighting every day to redefine our failed foreign policy of military intervention. He continually battles those who clamor for regime change in the Middle East, including those who want regime change in Syria.

Who is pushing hardest for regime change? I bet a full airing of my conversation would give you a better picture of my thoughts on broader Middle Eastern politics. Here is a brief outline.

For two decades or more, America’s honorable military tradition has been at the beck and call of a policy to rewrite the map of the Middle East, for reasons both evident and secretive.  Interests beyond the disclosure of national security objectives and clear and present danger have placed our nation’s finest young men and women in theaters of battle with objectives that have been concealed from the American public and shielded even from Congressional approval to go to war, as demanded by the Constitution.

I don’t think this is a secret to most Americans to say that our military has faced a rate of deployment and a burden of service that has been unprecedented in our national history.  And I don’t think it’s controversial to speak the truth about the manipulations and unarticulated objectives of the Obama-Hillary Clinton foreign policy.  It’s high time someone spoke the truth about endless wars and the disservice that’s been visited on the finest military tradition and the most effective fighting force in the history of warfare.

Our fighting men and women are always ready and willing to answer the call and to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  We owe to them as leaders and as citizens that that sacrifice never be demanded on false pretense.  In Iraq it was weapons of mass destruction.  In Libya it was humanitarian intervention.  The result in every conflict in the Bush-Obama era has been regime change that has left the most radicalized and dangerous elements of Muslim leadership in charge of entire nations.  With accelerated chaos, increased bloodshed and fewer rights and freedoms as a result.

I think our nation’s soldiers deserve better political outcomes than to watch patches of sand they fought, bled and died for to be given back to an ever encroaching enemy, and in every case, turned over to people who hate the United States, are openly hostile to democratic ideals and have no respect or reverence for essential liberty or the dignity of human life.  The Middle East is not a military failure.  It is a political travesty and a dishonest expenditure of the most valuable resource we have.  The very best and most dedicated of our young men and women in uniform.


By Mark Mills

Custer City, SD, May 12, 2018 – Last Saturday, formal flag ceremonies marked the official season
opening of Custer State Park’s Legion Lake Lodge. Flag raising ceremonies were conducted by
Custer Post #46, American Legion. In recognition of the American Legion’s historic ties to the
lodge, its flag was flown beneath the United States flag for opening day. At the end of the day,
the legion flag was replaced with the South Dakota state flag. Both the national and state flags
were donated to Legion Lake Lodge by Custer Post #46.

Pictured L to R; Don Hone, Dean Mills, Ernie Thornell, Tom Burke, and Ed Thompson. Not pictured, Legion Lake Lodge General Manager Jason Deuhr

Legion Lake is the original home of Custer Post #46. Each year the post ceremonially renews its
ties to its historic home. Following this year’s ceremonies, legionnaires enjoyed breakfast in the
lodge’s restaurant and marveled at the changes to the landscape and facilities of its old home.
Though time marches on, all agreed the spirit of the American Legion remains strong at Legion


PIERRE, S.D If you served with the Armed Forces any time after Aug. 2, 1990, or are currently active duty military, the State of South Dakota and South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs want to say thank you!

The Department administers a bonus program for those who were legal residents of the state for no less than six months prior to their active duty service and who meet other qualifications.

In the past 14 years, the department has made bonus payments of up to $500 to more than 9,400 service members for their active duty service after Jan. 1, 1993, through today. Since 2005, bonus awards have also been made to over 880 service members activated from Aug. 2, 1990, to Dec. 31, 1992. Bonus payments cannot be paid for Active Duty for training.

Read more about the state’s Armed Forces bonus under the “Benefits” tab on the Department website at, contact your local county or tribal veterans service office, or call the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs at 605-773-7251.


The South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs Field Officers will be on site to provide Veterans with information for services, and answer any questions you have regarding, VA Healthcare, Compensation and Pension, Mental Health Services and much more.  Spouses are welcome to attend as well. Dates and times are subject to change on short notice. More information on programs and services is available at The officers will be in the following locations:

  • Monday, Feb. 5 – 10am – 4pm (MST) Dupree – 501 S. Main St., (605)280-4308.

10am – 3pm (CST) Burke – 221 E. 8th St., (605)280-4306.

                        9:30am – 1:30pm (MST) Pine Ridge – #1 Veteran Rd., (605)280-4307.

                        8am – 10:30am (CST) Vermillion – 211 W. Main St.  (605)360-7819.

                        11:30am – 2pm (CST) Yankton – 321 W. 3rd St. (605)360-7819.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 6 – 9am – 3pm (MST) Belle Fourche –  830 6th Ave., (605)280-4307.

                                    10am – 2pm (MST) Eagle Butte/CRST – at Tribal Office, (605)280-4308.

                                    8am – 2:30pm (CST) Mitchell 1420 N. Main St. (605)360-7819

  • .Wednesday, Feb. 7 – 10am – 3pm (CST) Roscoe – 210 S. Mitchell St., (605)280-4308

                                    9am – 2:30pm (MST) Custer – 420 Mt. Rushmore Rd. (605)280-4307.

                                       10am – 12pm (CST) Salem – 130 W. Essex Ave.  (605)360-7819.

                                       12:30pm – 2pm (CST) Alexandria – 720 5th St.  (605)360-7819.

  • Thursday, Feb. 8 – 9am – 2pm (MST) Kadoka – 700 Main St., (605)280-4308.

                                    10am – 1pm (MST) Bison – 100 E. Main. (605)280-4307.

                                    8am – 2:30pm (CST) Mitchell – 1420 N. Main St. (605)360-7819.

One South Dakotan’s Purple Heart Story, 73 Years Overdue By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

Sylvan Vigness

One of the important services that our Senate office provides to South Dakotans is assistance in dealing with federal agencies. Over the past three years that I’ve been in office, we have helped countless South Dakotans navigate the bureaucracy of the federal government. With such a large population of veterans living in our state, we often work with different agencies on behalf of veterans. In some cases, we’re able to assist veterans in receiving overdue ribbons and commendations that have been lost in federal paperwork.

We recently had the honor of helping a veteran from Flandreau receive a long overdue Purple Heart Medal. Sylvan Vigness honorably served his country in World War II. On April 1, 1945, Mr. Vigness was serving onboard the U.S.S. Hinsdale when it was hit by a kamikaze during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Mr. Vigness lost sight in his left eye after the attack, and is permanently blind in that eye as a result. Amid the chaos of the attack, the medical records onboard the ship from that day were lost or destroyed, and because of that, Mr. Vigness was denied the Purple Heart for decades.

The Vigness family has spent the past 25 years seeking a Purple Heart for Mr. Vigness, working with my predecessors in the Senate to obtain this long overdue medal. The request was continuously denied because the Navy was unable to locate his medical records from the time of the attack. When the Vigness family contacted our office to look into obtaining the Purple Heart, we began putting together witness statements from his shipmates, along with other materials related to his service and subsequent eye injury. We then sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, requesting the medal for Mr. Vigness, and I had an opportunity to speak directly to the Secretary about it at the Pentagon. On January 17, 2018, Secretary Spencer notified my office that at his request, under the direction of the president, Mr. Vigness, now aged 94, will finally receive the Purple Heart.

Mr. Vigness is a hero who bravely defended his country in World War II, and is fully deserving of the Purple Heart Medal. We’re thankful to him for his service, and we’re thankful to his family and friends for not giving up on seeking this recognition for him. Like Mr. Vigness, the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States make incredible sacrifices to defend our freedoms and our way of life. I’m extremely grateful for the president’s personal interest in directing that special attention be paid to getting veterans their overdue medals, as well as for Secretary Spencer, who personally reviewed Mr. Vigness’ medical records and personal statement and awarded him the Purple Heart.

If there are other veterans and families in South Dakota who are seeking to obtain a medal or award, please reach out to our office and if we can, we’ll try to help with that effort. Call or stop in to our Pierre, Rapid City or Sioux Falls offices any time. Location information and phone numbers can be found on our website,

VA Rule Change to Begin Reimbursing Veterans for Emergency Care


WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today made a statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it has revised its regulations related to payment or reimbursement to veterans who have had to seek emergency care at a non-VA facility.

“After seven years of an improper rule being on the books and thousands of veterans being denied reimbursement by the VA, this announcement is a significant step in the right direction,” said Rounds. “The majority of the veterans impacted by this rule change are elderly veterans, many of whom live on a fixed income and have limited resources to pay their medical bills. These men and women have made incredible sacrifices for our country, and I’m glad the VA has taken action to fulfill its legal obligation to cover their emergency care costs. We will continue to review the revised rule to make certain the VA is acting in the best interest of our veterans.”

This rule change complies with the Emergency Care Fairness Act (ECFA), which was enacted in 2010 and directs the VA to cover veterans with private health insurance when that insurance doesn’t cover the full amount of non-VA emergency care. Previously, the VA had not been paying these costs despite its legal obligation to do so, denying hundreds of thousands of veterans’ claims. The new rule directs the VA to pay claims submitted on or after April 8, 2016, which is the date that the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims reversed a Board of Veterans’ Appeals decision in Staab v. McDonald.

Rounds has been working to get the VA to comply with its legal obligation to pay for these costs for over a year. During a June 2017 Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, VA Secretary David Shulkin told Rounds of the VA’s decision to withdraw its appeal and begin writing rules to cover these costs. The rules released yesterday are a result of that announcement.

More information on the revised regulation can be found here.

Bill To Double Size Of Black Hills Veterans Cemetery Passes Senate

Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

December 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) issued the following statements after the Senate passed their bill, the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act (S. 35), legislation that would facilitate a permanent land transfer of approximately 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery outside of Sturgis, South Dakota. A companion version, which was introduced by U.S. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), passed the House Representatives earlier this year.

“I’m glad the Senate unanimously approved this commonsense legislation that will allow the Black Hills National Cemetery to continue being a place for military families to remember and honor loved ones who have served,” said Thune. “By expanding the cemetery’s boundary, we can ensure that our military heroes will have a place to rest in peace for generations to come. We still have some work ahead us, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get this bill to the president as soon as possible.”

“It is important for South Dakota’s veterans to know that the Black Hills National Cemetery will have space for them for generations to come,” said Rounds. “I’m glad our legislation to expand the cemetery’s boundary passed the Senate and look forward to rectifying our bill with the House-passed version so we can get it to the president’s desk in a timely manner.”

“I applaud the Senate for passing this legislation to expand the Black Hills National Cemetery,” said Enzi. “Since Wyoming is one of the few states that does not have a VA National Cemetery, it is important that surrounding states have the capacity to ensure an honorable resting place for Wyoming’s veterans for years to come. That is why it is critical that Black Hills National Cemetery can continue to serve the region for decades as a place for military families to honor their loved ones.”

Under current law, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years. The Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act would make this particular transfer permanent.