New York is one of four states in America without its own state owned veterans cemetery. While there are a few private operations that focus on serving local vets in their community, it doesn’t serve the vets at large in New York.
After service, veterans are entitled to receive a free burial plot in national and state-operated cemeteries.The VA’s National Cemetery Administration operates national cemeteries for veterans in three upstate New York locations – Saratoga, Bath and Elmira – with a fourth under development near Buffalo.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi said: “Typically, you don’t want to have a veteran or their family be more than 90 miles from a veterans cemetery” and ¨about 56,000 veterans in Central New York and the Southern Tier are more than 90 miles from the nearest national veterans cemetery.¨
To help rectify this wrong, in November, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed exploring the idea for a separate state owned cemetery for veterans. Cuomo appointed a committee to develop a plan and recommend a site.
A New York State Veterans Cemetery is a project that would be funded through grants from the state and federal government. Originally only Oneida county was bidding, however Seneca country has recently entered the picture.
Oneida County is offering about 150 acres of undeveloped land near the Westmoreland exit of the state Thruway in its bid.
Seneca County wants to turn over the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery to the state government, along with responsibility for its maintenance and operations. The state has already invested about $7 million, including an initial grant of $3.3 million, to develop the cemetery on the site of the former Sampson Naval Training Station and Sampson Air Force Base in Romulus. Currently, 700 veterans and their dependents have been buried in the cemetery since it opened in 2011.
There will be a summit on Thursday in Utica with elected leaders and a representative from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (which would provide grants for New York to develop the cemetery) to discuss a final location. U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi is backing the original location proposed in Oneida County’s.