State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R-Fayette) today announced that the Senate has approved legislation he is sponsoring that will allow Seneca County to acquire surplus New York State land and establish a world class Veterans Cemetery at the former Sampson Naval and Air Force Base. This land is where hundreds of thousands of brave men and women began their military service during World War II.
“The Senate's approval of this legislation is a major step forward in making the dream of this Veterans Cemetery a reality,” said Senator Nozzolio. I strongly urge the State Assembly to act quickly on this important legislation.”
The Senator's legislation must be approved by the Assembly and Governor in order for this transaction to take effect. Assemblyman Brian Kolb is sponsoring the legislation in the Assembly.
Senator Nozzolio has committed over $500,000 in New York State funding in an effort to create a Veterans cemetery as the final resting place for our military. The legislation that was approved by the Senate will transfer over 450 acres of surplus New York State property back to Seneca County. Approximately 100 acres will be dedicated for the construction of the Veterans Cemetery and the remainder will be returned to the tax rolls for future economic development.
“Throughout our nation’s history, veterans have made tremendous sacrifices in defense of our democracy, said Senator Nozzolio. “In fighting for freedom and peace, our veterans secured America’s greatness, a greatness that prevails today because of all our veterans’ tremendous collective sacrifice. America’s veterans are our true heroes, and this cemetery will be a lasting tribute and place of honor where they will be appropriately remembered.”
“The Finger Lakes region is home to a remarkable and unique military history, added Senator Nozzolio. “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. These Americans trained at Sampson to serve America and the country they loved. Just a few miles from Sampson is Waterloo, the nationally recognized birthplace of Memorial Day.”
The site of the proposed cemetery, the Sampson United States Naval and Air Force Base, served as a naval training station during World War II and was later used as an Air Force Basic Training Center. Constructed in 1942, Sampson trained over 400,000 naval recruits during its years of operation. Sailors trained at Sampson fought and participated in every major battle of World War II. During the Korean War the property was converted to the Sampson Air Force Base and over 300,000 airmen received their basic training there from 1950 until 1956. The Sampson Memorial Naval Museum and Air Force Museum are currently located at the site.
Creation of a veterans cemetery on the former Sampson Naval and Air Force base has been one of the highest legislative priorities for many veterans’ groups throughout New York State. Over the years, New York State Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Korean Vets, New York State Council of Veterans Organizations, the Sampson WW-2 Navy Veterans and Sampson Air Force Veterans have all advocated on behalf of the development of a cemetery at Sampson.
All honorably discharged veterans, their spouses and dependent children will be eligible for burial at the proposed cemetery. The guidelines for the cemetery will be based on federal veteran cemetery standards. This will include opening and closing of the graves, perpetual upkeep and maintenance, government headstone or marker, burial flag and presidential certificate.
Senator Nozzolio has also established the Sampson Veterans Cemetery Advisory Board. The first meeting of the board will be held on Thursday, June 8 at the American Legion Post, 396 Lochland Road in Geneva at 6:00 p.m. to explore plans for the development of the cemetery and discuss the state regulations which will govern the board. In addition to Senator Nozzolio, confirmed members of the Board include: Wayne and Cindy Campbell, Carmen Pascarella, Olive Jameson, Jim Lewis, John Barwinczok, Ted Fafinski, Ronald Pettengill and David Kaiser. Other individuals are expected to join the board as the plans are developed.
“I remain steadfast in my commitment to bring this cemetery to the former Sampson Naval and Air Force Base in Seneca County and is a fitting tribute to our veterans that this legislation was approved on the brink of Memorial Day,” Nozzolio concluded.