cemetery plan moves forward
By DENISE M. CHAMPAGNE
ROMULUS — Ground at Sampson State Park, where thousands of Americans trained for duty in World War II and the Korean War, could become a final resting place for veterans.
Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-54 of Fayette, was to tell veterans and local dignitaries today that he has committed more than $500,000 in state funding and drafted legislation that would pave the way for the creation of a veterans cemetery at the site, a project that has been in the works for more than seven years.
Nozzolio is seeking the transfer of more than 450 acres of surplus state property to Seneca County; of that, around 100 acres of the former Naval and Air Force Base would be set aside for the veterans cemetery. The remainder would be returned to tax rolls.
“This cemetery will be a lasting tribute and place of honor where [our nation’s veterans] will be appropriately remembered,” Nozzolio said.
Sampson opened in 1942 as a naval base and was the training site for more than 400,000 recruits. Sailors trained there were involved in every major battle of World War II.
During the Korean War, the property was converted to an Air Force base with more than 300,000 airmen receiving basic training from 1950-56. It is now home to the Sampson Memorial Naval and Air Force museums.
“The Finger Lakes region is home to a remarkable and unique military history,” Nozzolio said. “The Sampson site is a place of hallowed ground, where over three quarters of a million Americans were trained to defend and preserve our freedom.”
Nozzolio pointed out Waterloo, the nationally recognized birthplace of Memorial Day, is just a few miles north, making the park “a fitting site” for a veterans cemetery.
Creation of a cemetery on the former base has been one of the highest legislative priorities for many veterans groups, including the state Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Korean Vets, state Council of Veterans Organizations, the Sampson WW-2 Navy Veterans and Sampson Air Force Veterans.
Nozzolio plans to introduce the legislation, which he and Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-129 of Canandaigua, will jointly sponsor, in the Senate as soon as it has been reviewed by Seneca County officials.
“Certainly we have 1a lot more hurdles to climb,” he said. “There’s a lot of work ahead. I’m very confident that we will be able to achieve the objective. We’ve gotten such wide response.”
The cemetery “would be a wonderful tribute” to veterans, Kolb said, adding that he will do everything possible to ensure that the legislation is enacted.
Nozzolio said the cemetery idea was brought to him several years ago by concerned veterans, particularly Stephen Bull, president of the Sampson WW-2 Navy Veterans.
“Establishing a veterans cemetery in our region is something we Sampson veterans have been advocating for many, many years,” Bull said. “... This is great news for the several hundred thousand veterans living in the Finger Lakes region.”
Jim Dockstader, president of Air Force Veterans, said the Sampson site brings back a lot of fond memories for him and thousands of other veterans.
“I am extremely excited with Sen. Nozzolio’s efforts to establish a veterans cemetery at a place where many of us in the military grew up and became men,” he said.
Robert Shipley, chairman of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, stressed the county will do everything possible to assist in the effort, which he said would also contribute to the economic development of the area.
Nozzolio has been working with the town of Romulus and the state to coordinate various administrative services as well as general maintenance and groundskeeping for the proposed cemetery. The Hillside Children Center’s horticulture program in Romulus would help with landscape development.
“We have a strong record of community service and welcome the chance to participate in such a worthwhile endeavor,” said Ken Lewter, Hillside Resident Services leader.
All honorably discharged veterans, their spouses and dependent children would be eligible for burial at the cemetery. Guidelines would be based on federal veterans cemetery standards, including the opening and closing of graves, perpetual upkeep and maintenance, government headstones or markers, burial flags and presidential certificates.
A governing board would be established at a later date to create the design of the cemetery. All veterans interested in providing input or who want more information may call Nozzolio’s office at (888)568-9816 or by visiting his Web site at www.senatornozzolio.com.
The Sampson Naval Base was named in honor of Rear Adm. William T. Sampson of Palmyra, who was a hero of the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American War.