WNY National Cemetery for veterans dedicated this morning in Pembroke

Staff Reports Posted 30 November 2020 at 4:29 pm

PEMBROKE – Many dignitaries gathered this morning in the rain to dedicate the new Western New York National Cemetery in Pembroke.

The cemetery took more than a decade of work to become a reality, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, one of the speakers at this morning’s ceremony.

He was joined by Department of Veterans Affairs officials and Western New York veterans who have been instrumental in the push to create a veteran cemetery in Western New York. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Congressman Chris Jacobs also spoke at the dedication.

The 269-acre site on Indian Falls Road in Pembroke is located approximately 30 miles from Buffalo and 48 miles from Rochester. The cemetery will provide a fitting burial option to approximately 77,100 currently underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York.

The cemetery will be the first and only of its kind in the Buffalo-Rochester area and will save thousands of military families from having to travel more than 100 miles in some cases to what was previously the closest Veterans’ Cemetery in Bath, Schumer said.

“Today at long last, veterans across Western New York will have a fitting resting place and eternal place of honor right here in the very community they dedicated their lives to defend and serve,” Schumer said. “Dedicating this hallowed ground today answers the call of veterans who organized over a decade ago for a local National Cemetery. I was proud to take up their call and work alongside them to now realize this day. Now a grieving family will not be left to travel over 200 miles from their home to bury or visit their loved ones. Now the veterans of Western New York who have done so much for us and our nation will have a proper burial, at a National Cemetery close to their home, family and thankful community.”

A group of veterans started the process to get a cemetery dedicated for veterans in Western New York in the mid-2000s. The group, organized by Erie County Veteran and Advocate Dr. Patrick Welch gathered over 10,000 signatures that he and other veterans provided to Senator Schumer that called for the establishment of a veteran’s cemetery in Western New York.

For several years, Schumer said he worked alongside the veteran’s community of Western New York to push the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration to establish a National Veterans Cemetery in WNY. In 2010, the VA responded and announced it would establish a new veteran’s cemetery in Western New York as there where at least 80,000 veterans that resided at least 75-miles from the National Veterans Cemetery in Bath.

In 2019 Schumer secured an additional $10 million that they VA said it would require to complete the cemetery’s Phase 1 construction.

In January of 2018, Schumer called on the VA to complete the final acquisitions of two land parcels of 60-acres and 77-acres respectively in Pembroke, New York, needed to create the cemetery and one month later announced the VA had done so. In 2016, Schumer announced that following his push $36 million in federal funding for the construction phase of the cemetery in Western New York had been secured and included in the final continuing resolution (CR) package.

“Genesee County’s veteran community is extremely proud to be the host-county for the Western New York National Cemetery,” said Doug Doktor, Chairman of the Genesee County Joint Veterans Council. “Now local veterans have our fitting final resting place of honor close to home and our families.”

Jim Neider, OIC of the Joint Veterans Honor Guard of Genesee County and member of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia, said, “We are deeply grateful to at long last dedicate the new Western New York National Cemetery and to know that local veterans and their family members will have an eternal home of honor right here in Genesee County.”

Congressman Chris Jacobs thanked veterans for their service and regretted many could not attend the ceremony due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Let me also say that you were right all along in your efforts to get this cemetery here in WNY, because our region deserves this cemetery, our veterans deserve this cemetery, the family members of our veterans deserve to mourn, pray for and visit their loved one’s in our region not 100 miles away,” Jacobs said. “The veterans and their families earned this right, our WNY region on a per capita basis has far more veterans than so many other areas in our state and our nation again you earned this.”