ROMULUS, N.Y. (WROC) — New York used to be one of only a few states nationwide without a state veterans cemetery, but not anymore.
Just last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Seneca County, was chosen by a State-appointed committee as the site of New York’s first State Veterans Cemetery.
“There’s a very deep and rich military history here in Seneca County. I know a number of other people whose loved ones are buried there,” Seneca County Manager Mitch Rowe said.
For Rowe, this cemetery is personal. His father, a former veteran, is buried there.
“He was in the U.S. Army in the second World War, Purple Heart recipient, he had been injured in duty over in Europe,” Rowe said. Naturally, his involvement in years of planning, designing and building this cemetery has been an emotional one.
Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is situated on 162 acres along the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region. The cemetery is located on what was formerly the Sampson Naval Training Station and Sampson Air Force Base, where hundreds of thousands of servicemembers were trained during World War II and the Korean War.
Back in 2008, Rowe said Seneca County took possession of the land with the goal of making it the cemetery it is today.
Rowe says he’d always hoped Sampson would become either a federal or state veteran’s cemetery. So when he found out New York was looking for one, the county applied right away.
He says everything was already constructed, making them a great candidate. In addition, the County itself represents hundreds of thousands of veterans within a 75 mile radius.
Over in Monroe County, former U.S. Navy Commander and County Legislator George Hebert says over 35,000 veterans reside.
“There hasn’t been anywhere near Rochester or Western New York, an appropriate resting place for veterans,” Hebert said. “It’s something that’s been wanted, needed and it’s finally been fulfilled.”
The decision to choose Sampson as the state’s cemetery was unanimous. The next steps will be figuring out funds for operating and maintaining the cemetery for the first 10 years and eventually apply for federal funding.