NY establishes first state Veterans Cemetery
SENECA LAKE--Gov. Kathy Hochul last week announced the establishment of New York's first-ever state Veterans Cemetery, made possible with the transfer of ownership of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery from Seneca County to the state and $2.8 million available from the National Cemetery Administration. First identified as the appropriate location in 2021, the cemetery will ensure the state can provide burial options for New York's veterans and their families. The State Division of Veterans' Services will oversee the cemetery, which has been renamed the New York State Veterans Cemetery - Finger Lakes, in accordance with national standards for state veterans cemeteries.
"Our veterans have sacrificed more than many could ever imagine, and New York is proud to establish its first State Veterans Cemetery to honor their legacies and ensure they can rest in peace," Hochul said. "There is no better place for this first-of-its-kind cemetery than a location steeped in military history. We will never take our veterans for granted and we will ensure that they are taken care of in life and in death as we thank them for their selfless service."
The New York State Veterans Cemetery - Finger Lakes occupies 162 acres along Seneca Lake in Romulus, Seneca County and is adjacent to Sampson State Park. The site has 147 acres of land available for development and construction projects to ensure it serves as an honored resting place for New York state's heroes for generations to come. The cemetery is located at the site of the former Sampson Naval Training Station and Sampson Air Force Base, where hundreds of thousands of service members trained during World War II and the Korean War. The site later functioned as a temporary college and a separation center for service members being discharged, and officially closed in 2000.
New York State Division of Veterans' Services Director Viviana DeCohen said, "We are grateful to our partners in the National Cemetery Administration for recognizing New York's first state Veterans Cemetery and for providing a grant opportunity to provide a dignified resting place for service members, veterans and their families in New York. This fulfills an important aspect of our mission to serve New York's Veteran families."
The site was chosen in 2021 by a committee appointed for that purpose. The Division of Veterans' Services worked with stakeholders to secure the availability of $2.8 million in federal funds, which was key to facilitating the transfer. The federal funding will allow for upgrades, including columbarium niches, pre-placed crypts, landscaping, irrigation, grading and drainage, as well as maintenance building and maintenance yard, and other supporting infrastructure.
New York state is home to more than 688,000 veterans, and until now, was one of just a handful of states across the country that did not have a federally recognized state-owned and operated veterans' cemetery. The New York State Veterans Cemetery - Finger Lakes is open for internments of service members who die on active duty, veterans, and their eligible spouses and dependent children.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said, "Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is hallowed ground for hundreds of thousands of World War II and Korean Veterans who entered into the military to defend our nation. It is only fitting that the VA's National Cemetery Administration partner with the state of New York to make Sampson, New York's first-ever state Veterans Cemetery. I was proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with our veteran advocates to help secure the $2.8 million federal investment for the expansions and improvements to make this long overdue project possible and ensure our veterans and their families have a fitting final resting place."
State Senator Tom O'Mara added, "The designation of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery as New York state's first-ever veterans cemetery is a fitting salute and a lasting tribute to a decades-long effort from so many state and local leaders, area veterans, and proud citizens." Assemblymember Phil Palmesano concluded, "Thank you to our heroic veterans for your service and sacrifice and to all of those who have worked so hard over the years to help achieve this important designation."