by Joe Siccardi
The Reveille Between the Lakes
After years of work and planning, the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery will officially open in just over three weeks.
New York State Senator Michael Nozzolio, Assemblyman Brian Kolb and Seneca County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chuck Lafler of Seneca Falls will join area veterans, leaders of local, statewide and national veterans organizations, current and past members of the military, local, state and federal elected officials, community leaders, members of the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency/Economic Development Corporation (IDA/EDC) and members of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors to dedicate the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. July 30.
The ceremony will feature a “Wall of Honor” paying tribute to the more than 60 veterans who will be the first veterans laid to rest at the memorial cemetery. The wall will include photographs and personal stories of each veteran’s courageous service to the Nation.
“Our veterans have given so much to protect and preserve the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day. The time is long overdue to fully recognize and pay tribute to their courage, commitment and dedication to the ideals we cherish in this country,” said Nozzolio. “The day we dedicate the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery will be a day of recognition for our veterans and the sacrifices that they made for our country.”
The Seneca County Industrial Development Agency/Economic Development Corporation has contracted with Seneca Coun-ty to oversee and manage the day to day operations of the cemetery. The IDA/EDC will also work in conjunction with Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery Committee to secure both public and private support for cemetery, as well as the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery Association to help manage the operational needs.
“Many should be thanked for their significant contributions to this project. Deserving special thanks should be the Seneca County IDA/EDC, the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery As-sociation, as well as the members of their committees and the many veterans who have worked to make this final resting place – in the shadow of Waterloo, the nationally recognized Birthplace of Memorial Day – a reality for our nation’s veterans. We have overcome a great many obstacles and worked together with Seneca County officials to finally reach our objective in creating the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery,” added Nozzolio.
Nozzolio, along with members of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery Association worked extremely hard for over a decade, and overcame a number of hurdles to establish the 162 acre cemetery, adjacent to the Sampson State Park in Romulus, as a lasting memorial to those who answered the call of duty and served their nation with honor and dignity.
As the former Naval and Air Force base where over a million sailors and airmen were trained in preparation for battle, Sampson is unique and hallowed ground. Constructed in 1942 on the shores of Seneca Lake, the base is named after Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, a hero of the Battle of Santiago in the Spanish American War who was born in Wayne County. The Sampson base served as a naval training station during World War II and was later used as an Air Force Basic Training Center.
All honorably discharged veterans, their spouses and dependent children will be eligible for burial at Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The guidelines for the cemetery will be based on national federal veteran cemetery standards. There are about 200,000 veterans living in the Finger Lakes region.
The dedication ceremony will be located at the Sampson Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, along Route 96A. That portion of Route 96A has been officially renamed the “Sampson Veterans Memorial Highway” to further memorialize all veterans, and in particular the men and women who trained and served at the Sampson Air Force and Naval Base.
The IDA/EDC followed the county board’s lead last Wednesday (June 29) and ratified the contract. In addition, the EDC – which will actually oversee the operation of the cemetery as a subsidiary of the IDA – hired an acting cemetery director, William Yale of Locke. He will be paid $2,500 per month.
Yale was born in Wilkes Barre, PA, but grew up in Honeoye Falls. He joined the Navy and retired from active duty in 1999 after a 20 year career.
He then became a licensed New York State funeral director and worked at Herson Funeral Home, Ithaca, for several years before becoming administrator of the Veterans Administration-run national veterans cemetery in Bay Pine, FL. He left that position in 2009 and returned to Cayuga County.
It is possible some of the burials may take place prior to July 30.
To learn more about Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery, visit www.sampsonveteranscemetery.com or call the Cemetery Association at (315) 539-1849. For more information on the opening of the cemetery, visit www.senatornozzolio.com or go to Nozzolio’s Facebook page.