Collins lauds selection of Pembroke for location of new veterans cemetery
Submitted by Howard B. Owens on May 29, 2014 - 3:45pm
"For too long, Western New York's veterans have been denied the honor of being laid to rest among their fellow heroes right here in our community," Congressman Chris Collins said. "Today's announcement of a veterans’ cemetery in Pembroke finally rights that wrong. This location will allow veterans from all around our region to be properly and locally honored for their service to this country."
Background: The VA has selected a 132-acre parcel on Indian Falls Road in the Town of Pembroke (Genesee County) as home for the long-anticipated Western New York Veterans’ Cemetery. Currently, the closest veterans’ cemetery is located in Bath, approximately 100 miles away.
Press release from Sen. Charles Schumer's office after the jump:
Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has selected a site for the long-awaited Western New York Veterans’ Cemetery. The cemetery will be located on a 132-acre parcel at 1232 Indian Falls Road in the Town of Pembroke, Genesee County, just north of the Pembroke Thruway exit.
This veterans’ cemetery will be the first and only of its kind in the Buffalo-Rochester area, and will save thousands of military families from having to travel upward of 100 miles to visit their loved ones at what is now the closest veterans’ cemetery in Bath.
Schumer, along with various veterans groups, have led the charge to bring this much-needed veterans’ cemetery to Western New York. They've argued that a lack of a national veterans’ cemetery within a 75-mile radius of Buffalo and Rochester meant that it is long past time to establish a national veterans’ cemetery at a closer location for the hundreds of thousands of veterans living in the region.
The site is located approximately 30 miles from Buffalo and 48 miles from Rochester. The cemetery will provide a fitting burial option to approximately 96,000 currently underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York.
Schumer said this site selection is great news for the many thousands of deserving veterans living in Buffalo, Rochester, and beyond. With this new cemetery in Pembroke, these veterans and family members will be able to have a proper military burial near their homes in Western New York, and their families will be able to pay their respects without having to travel over 100 miles – something that can be a tremendous burden for many families.
“I am pleased that after four years of hard work, we finally have a site in place," the Senator said. "After serving our country so valiantly, and for so many years, it is only appropriate that we develop a national shrine, on a beautiful piece of land right in our backyard, for our veterans’ final resting place.”
Schumer has long argued that it is critical for a veterans’ cemetery location to be located in Western New York. He has pushed the VA as well as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to decide on a site and conduct the necessary environmental reviews as quickly as possible. Half of New York’s veterans are 65 years of age or older, and it’s well overdue to plan for their future and to ensure that they are treated with the honor they deserve.
Schumer has heard from local veterans groups that veterans in Western New York desperately want to be buried in a national shrine, but don’t want to force their families to travel far away to visit, at potentially great hardship. Some veterans have reported that families are delaying interring the cremated remains of their loved ones, with the intention of making this new cemetery their loved one's final resting place.
Today, more than 22 million veterans are eligible for the honor of burial in a national cemetery. Veterans with discharges other than dishonorable, their spouses and dependent children, may also be eligible for burial in a VA National Cemetery. Those who die on active duty may be buried in one, too.
Schumer joined with Western New York vets for years in calling for the VA to locate the first federal veterans’ cemetery in the region. Around 2009-2010, the VA updated its burial policy, which changed the threshold of veterans required to construct a new national cemetery to 80,000 veterans within 75 miles of a proposed site.
With this new policy, the region was more than qualified, with 96,000-plus veterans in Western New York who live beyond 75 miles from the nearest available national cemetery -- in Bath. Moreover, a total of nearly 300,000 veterans across Western New York could be served by this cemetery. Schumer has fought from the start to push the VA to move forward in finding a site for this cemetery, and he has pushed the process through a variety of roadblocks.