At Brindisi’s invitation, VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves and State Division of Veterans Services Director COL. James McDonough come to Utica
Continuing his fight for local Veterans and their families, Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) hosted a summit with local, state and federal officials to push forward with a proposal to locate New York’s first state veterans cemetery in Oneida County.
Present at the meeting with Brindisi were VA Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves, State Division of Veterans Services Director COL. James McDonough, County Executive Anthony Picente, State Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon and Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 944 President Tom Buono.
“Since the founding of our country, Central New Yorkers have been fighting in defense of our nation,” Brindisi said. “Our veterans deserve to have the option to be laid to rest in a local veterans cemetery. I am proud to work with local, state, and federal officials to get this done. Now that the County has identified potential land for this cemetery, I am more confident than ever we can get this across the finish line. After all the sacrifices they have made for our country, our Veterans and their families deserve nothing less.”
New York is one of only four states that does not have a state veterans cemetery, and Central New York has been identified by the VA as one of the greatest underserved areas in the country. New York’s 22nd Congressional District is home to nearly 50,000 veterans.
During today’s meeting, Brindisi and local officials discussed potential land options for a veterans cemetery in Oneida County. The county is identifying potential land sites and the state and federal officials are weighing their options. Brindisi convened the meeting of federal, state and local officials to outline next steps in the process.
Last November, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of a committee chaired by COL. James McDonough to develop an action plan and determine the location for New York’s first state veterans cemetery. Once the committee makes its decision and the state legislature approves the process, New York State can submit an application to the VA for a veteran cemetery grant. Once approved, construction may begin on a Veterans cemetery located on land donated by Oneida County.
“Oneida County is a place that honors and respects its veterans and this government will always place a high priority on providing comprehensive services to those who serve our country,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “I thank Undersecretary Reeves and Congressman Brindisi for partnering with us to address the issues that most concern our veterans and for their efforts to bring a veterans cemetery here to Oneida County.”
“Veterans who put their lives on the line for our nation deserve our utmost respect and gratitude, this includes ensuring they have convenient access to burial in a veterans cemetery,” said Assembly member Marianne Buttenschon. “A state veteran’s cemetery in the Utica area would allow Mohawk Valley families to honor loved ones and express our thanks to the generations of local veterans who proudly served our country. Thank you to the Department of Veterans Affairs and Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs, Randy Reeves, for joining us in Utica and underscoring Utica as a top prospective site for a cemetery grant. I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work on this issue. I’ll do everything I can to ensure the success of this important project.”
“The New York State Division of Veterans’ Services is grateful to Congressman Brindisi and his staff for being constant supporters and allies to New York’s veteran families,” said Colonel Jim McDonough (USA, Ret.), director of the state Division of Veterans’ Services. “We appreciate the opportunity to meet and listen to these experts on how to provide dignified burial options for New York’s veterans. We look forward to continuing to serve veteran families together.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to engage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on this issue and Congressman Brindisi’s efforts to bring together key stakeholders to further discuss the establishment of a veterans cemetery in Oneida County,” said Senator Joe Griffo. “Today’s meeting provided us with the opportunity to get important updates and information on this initiative directly from Undersecretary Reeves and Col. McDonough. We will continue our effort and remain hopeful that we will be successful in bringing a local veterans cemetery to the region.”
“Our Oneida County Veterans Cemetery Committee consists of members from various veteran organizations,” said Tom Buono with the Oneida County Veterans Cemetery Committee. “We have been trying to establish a state veterans cemetery in Oneida County for more than four years. We are one of only two states in the country that does not have a state veterans cemetery. The nearest veterans cemetery is more than 90 miles away. When Congressman Anthony Brindisi was elected, we discussed our goal with him. I appreciate Congressman Brindisi’s ability to engage the administration on this issue and bring all the key stakeholders together for this discussion. We received important updates and information from Undersecretary Reeves and remain hopeful that we will be able to get a veterans cemetery in Oneida County. This cemetery will provide a final resting place befitting their sacrifice to their country.”
Last year, Brindisi, a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, outlined his “Serving Upstate New York Veterans” plan. Brindisi’s Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2019 and Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act were signed into law by President Trump.