Tens of thousands of veterans are simply underserved at this point and legislation would change that.
BREWSTER, NY – (2/23/2012) – Senator Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson), Chairman of the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, was joined by local Veterans on Friday as he continued to urge his fellow legislators to pass the Veterans’ Cemetery Bill (S5381A/A1386A), which would create a State Veterans Cemetery in New York.
To date, the VA program has helped establish, expand and improve 79 veterans cemeteries in 38 states and territories, provided nearly 28,000 burials in 2010 alone. The VA has awarded grants totaling more than $438 million. New York has never participated in this federally-sponsored program, leaving thousands of New York State veterans without access to this earned benefit.
“I am committed to extending the honor of a burial to the men and women who bravely served this country yet are being denied access to this earned benefit,” said Senator Ball who sponsored and passed the legislation in the New York State Senate. “Tens of thousands of veterans are simply underserved at this point and this legislation would change that.”
Constantino Procopis, the Commander of American Legion Post 136 in Mount Kisco, said the lack of proper burial grounds within 75-mile radii makes it a struggle for families like his to visit their loved ones.
“My father-in-law is buried in Calverton and it’s a trek, it’s 100 miles from here to there and back,” Procopis said. “Greg Ball is right on the money. This is a great thing he’s trying to put together and he will be successful.”
The Adjutant of American Legion Post 135, Ferdinand Vetare, said it is also important for the Federal and State government to show concern for those who “served to protect our liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
“The dignity of a proper burial is very important for everyone and, from my point of view, especially for a man or woman who has served this county and done it right,” said Vetare. “That is something that I think every Veteran deserves.”
The concept of creating a New York State Veterans’ Cemetery has been a top priority of the New York State Veterans of Foreign Wars for several years, said NYS VFW Legislative Director James McNally. However, he said Senator Ball was the first legislator to take the initiative, draft legislation and move it forward in Albany.
“We believe that New York needs a state Veterans’ cemetery,” McNally said. “I’ve visited other state Veterans’ cemeteries and it’s a shame that New York doesn’t have one. This bill would work towards recognizing and servicing our Veterans that badly need it.”
In order for New York State to participate in the VA’s Cemetery Grant Program, the Commissioner of the State Veterans Affairs Department must have the legislative authority to complete and submit an application for a cemetery grant.
On the local level, The Putnam County legislature has passed two resolutions in support of the project. The first resolution approves for a parcel of land to be donated to the project. The second, accepts responsibility for the perpetual care and maintenance of the cemetery.
Eugene Parrotta, the chairman of Senator Ball’s Veterans Advisory Council, said he is hopeful that local Veterans will soon get this honor they so greatly deserve.
“Freedom and liberty are the title and deed of the soil we stand on. That price of that freedom and liberty is very expensive. This Veteran's Cemetery Bill insures that their great sacrifice is repaid with the dignity, honor and respect that our Veterans deserve,” Said Eugene Parrotta. “I would like to thank Senator Ball for honoring us all with such great dignity and respect. God Bless Senator Ball, everyone here today, and The United States of America.”
Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R-Golden’s Bridge) is a sponsor of the Veterans’ Cemetery Bill in the Assembly. Assemblyman Castelli said, as a Vietnam Veteran and the Ranking Member of the Committee Veteran’s Affairs in the New York State Assembly, he is strongly behind the movement to provide funding for a veteran’s cemetery.
“Given the incredible sacrifice of generations of young men, and women, who have fought to preserve our freedom, it is little enough to ask for them to be laid to rest with the dignity and honor due our servicemen and women,” Assemblyman Castelli said.
For more information or to speak with Senator Ball, Contact Brittany Oat (845) 200-9716.