Fate of Veterans Cemetery at Sampson Rests In Assembly

June 23, 2006

The most locally important issue to be considered by the state Legislature this year is creation of a veterans cemetery adjacent to the Sampson State Park in Romulus. The site of the proposed cemetery, Sampson Naval and Air Force Base, served as a naval training station during World War II and, later, as an Air Force basic training center.

Over 400,000 naval recruits trained at Sampson after the facility’s 1942 construction. The sailors went on to fight in every major battle of World War II. During the Korean War, the property was converted into Sampson Air Force Base, where over 300,000 airmen received their basic training from 1950 until 1956. The historical significance of Sampson, coupled with our region's military history and birthplace of Memorial Day, makes this area a fitting site for a world-class veterans cemetery.

For the cemetery to become reality, the state Legislature must transfer the state-owned land to Seneca County, which would establish the cemetery. My thanks go to state Sen. Michael Nozzolio for providing the vision and leadership needed to lay the project’s groundwork, which required organizing community members and organizations. I also thank the many veteran groups in my community and across the state that have been instrumental in the process.

The cemetery would properly recognize and honor the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform with a final resting place in New York state.

Earlier this week, the state Senate unanimously approved conveying 335 acres of state property adjacent to Sampson State Park to the Finger Lakes Land Trust for preservation as land that would be declared forever wild and 100 acres for cemetery creation. Sen. Nozzolio already earmarked $500,000 in state resources to be used for the creation of the cemetery.

I continue to work with Sen. Nozzolio in convincing the Assembly majority to move on this legislation. We even made significant changes to the bill to accommodate some of their concerns. I also secured bipartisan sponsorship from Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Tompkins and Cortland counties and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, chairman of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sen. Nozzolio and I lobbied heavily for the cemetery throughout this year’s legislative session. Despite the unanimous bipartisan Senate support, the Assembly majority basically have not brought this bill out for a vote, leaving us to speculate it may be politically motivated in an election year. We hope they see this cemetery is for veterans, families and loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and change their mind and pass this legislation sometime in the near future.