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Memorial Day marks the selection of Sampson as NY's first state veterans cemetery

New York State Division of Veterans' Services

A Memorial Day ceremony held at the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Seneca County on Monday took on special significance because of action by a state committee last week.

That committee voted to recommend Sampson as New York’s first state veterans’ cemetery.  New York is one of the few states that does not currently have a state veterans’ cemetery.

Joel Evans, acting director for the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services, said the decision is significant.

“There are nearly three-quarters of a million veterans living in New York and these brave men and women, who have defended our freedom and our values, deserve our eternal respect,” Evans said.

The Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is now run by Seneca County, and County Manager Mitch Rowe said it’s a moving experience for those who visit there to pay their respects.

“The restored MP guard shack greets you, and you have the military seals and the flags and you look out on Seneca Lake and if you’re there as the sun sets to the west, it is quite an experience,” Rowe said.

Rowe also said that some of his father’s remains are buried at the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery. His father, a Purple Heart recipient, served in the U.S. Army in WWII and died in 1998.

The cemetery is situated on 162 acres along the eastern shore of Seneca Lake and is on the site of what was formerly the Sampson Naval Training Station and Sampson Air Force Base where Gov.Andrew Cuomo noted that hundreds of thousands of service members were trained during WWII and the Korean War. Officials said the site has the capacity to ultimately accommodate more than 80,000 grave sites.

Cuomo announced his commitment to establish New York’s first state veterans’ cemetery in 2019 and mentioned it again in his 2020 State of the State agenda. He said the site in Romulus is the “perfect location for a sacred, final resting place.”

There are still some additional steps to be completed before the cemetery in Romulus is turned over to New York for its new designation as a state veterans’ cemetery.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.