State Takes Ownership of Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery from Seneca County, Becoming the New York State Veterans Cemetery – Finger Lakes
National Cemetery Administration to Provide $2.8 Million for Expansion and Improvements
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the establishment of New York’s first-ever State Veterans Cemetery, made possible with the transfer of ownership of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery from Seneca County to the State and $2.8 million available from the National Cemetery Administration. First identified as the appropriate location in 2021, the Cemetery will ensure the State can provide dignified burial options for New York’s veterans and their families. The State Division of Veterans’ Services will oversee the cemetery, which has been renamed the New York State Veterans Cemetery – Finger Lakes, in accordance with national standards for state veterans cemeteries.
“Our veterans have sacrificed more than many could ever imagine, and New York is proud to establish its first State Veterans Cemetery to honor their legacies and ensure they can rest in peace,” Governor Hochul said. “There is no better place for this first of its kind cemetery than a location steeped in military history. We will never take our veterans for granted and we will ensure that they are taken care of in life and in death as we thank them for their selfless service.”
The New York State Veterans Cemetery – Finger Lakes occupies 162 acres along Seneca Lake in Romulus, Seneca County and is adjacent to Sampson State Park. The site has 147 acres of land available for development and construction projects to ensure it serves as an honored resting place for New York State’s heroes for generations to come. The Cemetery is located at the site of the former Sampson Naval Training Station and Sampson Air Force Base, where hundreds of thousands of service members trained during World War II and the Korean War. The site later functioned as a temporary college and a separation center for service members being discharged, and officially closed in 2000. The Cemetery is located near Waterloo, the community recognized as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Seneca County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Enslow said, “Seneca County is honored to have had the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery selected to be New York State’s first Veterans Cemetery. We have been faithful stewards of this hallowed ground and look forward to a smooth transition and to an even brighter future for this historic place.”
New York State Division of Veterans’ Services Director Viviana DeCohen said, “We are grateful to our partners in the National Cemetery Administration for recognizing New York’s first State Veterans Cemetery and for providing a grant opportunity to provide a dignified resting place for Servicemembers, Veterans and their families in New York. This fulfills an important aspect of our mission to serve New York’s Veteran families.”
The site was chosen in 2021 as the location of New York’s first State Veterans Cemetery by a committee appointed for that purpose. The Division of Veterans’ Services worked with stakeholders to secure the availability of $2.8 million in federal funds, which was key to facilitating the transfer. The federal funding will allow for upgrades, including columbarium niches, pre-placed crypts, landscaping, irrigation, grading and drainage, as well as maintenance building and maintenance yard, and other supporting infrastructure.
New York State is home to more than 688,000 veterans, and until now, was one of just a handful of states across the country that did not have a federally recognized state-owned and operated veterans’ cemetery. The New York State Veterans Cemetery – Finger Lakes is open for internments of service members who die on active duty, veterans (as defined by federal law), and their eligible spouses and dependent children.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said, “Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is hallowed ground for hundreds of thousands of World War II and Korean Veterans who entered into the military to defend our nation. It is only fitting that the VA’s National Cemetery Administration partner with the State of New York to make Sampson, New York’s first-ever State Veterans Cemetery. I was proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with our veteran advocates to help secure the $2.8 million federal investment for the expansions and improvements to make this long overdue project possible and ensure our veterans and their families have a fitting final resting place.”
State Senator Tom O'Mara said, "The designation of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery as New York State's first-ever veterans cemetery is a fitting salute and a lasting tribute to a decades-long effort from so many state and local leaders, area veterans, and proud citizens. It will forever honor their commitment and devotion to this special piece of ground. It will long stand as a place of pride for Seneca County. Most of all, it will mark a fitting and final resting place for thousands upon thousands of our American heroes.”
State Senator Pam Helming said, “Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is now officially the first New York State Veterans Cemetery, and I am deeply honored to have been a part of making this long-held dream a reality. It is also personally meaningful to me because my father was a U.S. Air Force veteran who trained at Sampson Air Force Base. Thank you to Governor Hochul and the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services, and Seneca County. Most of all, thank you to our area veterans who deserve the ultimate credit for this day, and our highest respect and gratitude. Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery will always proudly serve as a lasting memorial and hallowed resting place for our nation’s greatest heroes.”
Assemblymember Phil Palmesano said, “Today, the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Romulus, New York, Seneca County, reached a historic designation with the transfer of ownership from Seneca County to the State of New York. This is a very important and final step in the long journey of establishing New York's first ever State Veterans Cemetery. There is no place in this state that is better suited to be the final, official resting place for the brave men and women who served our state and nation. Thank you to our heroic veterans for your service and sacrifice and to all of those who have worked so hard over the years to help achieve this important designation. A very special thank you to Seneca County for their tremendous care and stewardship of the land upon which Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is located. Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is hallowed ground and will continue to serve as a special, fitting and final resting place for the brave men and women of the military who served to protect us and our freedoms.”
About the Division of Veterans’ Services
The New York State Division of Veterans’ Services, which has served as the state’s advocacy agency for veterans, service members, and military families since 1945, maintains an agencywide commitment of serving all veterans, service members, and military families in a wide range of practice areas, including claims and appeals for benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, discharge upgrade appeals to the United States Department of Defense, and claims for New York State benefits. Veterans, service members, and military families are encouraged to contact the Division at 888-838-7697 or its website veterans.ny.gov to meet — in person or virtually — with an accredited Veterans Benefits Advisor to address their needs and gain the full measure of benefits that they have earned. Follow DVS on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.