By this fall, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hopes to begin construction on the new Western New York National Veterans Cemetery in the Town of Pembroke. Officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs encourage those who served in the military to do their homework, and take advantage of a benefit that many may not know is one to which they are entitled.
The new cemetery is expected to serve more than 96,000 veterans and their families. The grounds will feature a main ceremonial area for events on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Local Veterans Service Organizations will also have the opportunity to host ceremonies there.
"It's designed to be very solemn but as a memorial of perpetual care," said Jim Metcalfe, director of the future WNY National Cemetery and the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "We have 135 national cemeteries and every one is absolutely beautiful. It's a tribute to the men and women who served out country."
It is also a benefit to which veterans and their families are entitled. Burials, cremations, and the scattering of ashes are all benefits that come at no cost to veterans, spouses and eligible family members.
Metcalfe explained that those serving less than two years prior to 1982 or those since who have served two years honorably are eligible to be buried in a national cemetery. Reservists and National Guard members are also eligible under many circumstances. (Click here for additional information from the VA on who is eliglible).
"It's generally the worst time for somebody, when they lose a spouse or a loved one, and not not complicate the hardship but to give a little bit of ease in the decision-making process, it is a wonderful benefit to our veterans where there is no financial strain on the family," Metcalfe said.
It was announced last week that additional land was acquired for the project. A construction contract is expected to be awarded by the end of this summer, according to Metcalfe, with construction beginning this fall. Although completion of the WNY National Cemetery is expected to take up to 30 months, the first burials on the grounds are anticipated about a year after work begins.
Currently, the nearest national cemetery available to Western New York families is located in Bath, New York, approximately 100 miles away from Buffalo.