07.07.14

SCHUMER LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO NAME NEW WNY VETERANS CEMETERY AFTER WNY HERO WILD BILL DONOVAN SENATOR JOINS WITH DOZENS OF LOCAL VETERANS FOR FIRST VISIT TO NEW VETERANS' CEMETERY SITE FIRST IN BUFFALO-ROCHESTER AREA

Schumer Teamed Up with Local Vet Leaders to Bring Much-Needed Veterans Cemetery to Western New York Closest Veterans Cemetery is Currently 100+ Miles Away From Buffalo & 85 Miles Away From Rochester Schumer Joins Local Veteran Leaders To Begin Push To Name Site After WNYs Own Wild Bill Donovan, Decorated War Veteran & Founder of Precursor to the CIA Schumer Also Launches Push To Purchase 60-Acre Property Adjacent to Cemetery Site So There Will Be More Space To Expand

Today, at the new Western New York Veterans' Cemetery Site in Pembroke, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer joined with local veteran leaders to launch his campaign to name the new Western New York Veterans' Cemetery after decorated war hero and Western New York legend, "Wild Bill" Donovan. Donovan served as a Lt. Colonel in World War I and eventually went on to found and lead the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA, during World War II. He remains the only American to earn all four of the highest military awards in the United States. Schumer said that naming the first and only Veterans' Cemetery in the BuffaloRochester area after a local hero will make the site even more special. In addition, Schumer also announced his push to get the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to purchase an adjacent 60acre property, which would give the cemetery the space it needs to grow and expand. Having a cemetery in Pembroke will save thousands of military families from having to travel upward of 100 miles to visit their loved ones at what is now the closest Veterans' Cemetery in Bath, NY. Schumer, along with various veterans groups, led the charge to bring this muchneeded veterans' cemetery to Western New York.

"'Wild Bill' Donovan is a true Western New York hero, and I cannot think of any better way to commemorate his life, and honor our region's veterans, than by naming the new Western New York Veterans Cemetery after 'Wild Bill,'" said Schumer. "Western New York's veterans, and their families, deserve to have a national cemetery that is close to home, bucolic, and imbued with significance. This beautiful site, named after 'Wild Bill' Donovan, and less than an hour away from both Buffalo and Rochester, would be just that. I am urging the VA to make this a reality as quickly as possible."

Schumer continued, "We have an opportunity to immediately make this cemetery site 50 percent larger, and we should not hesitate to take it. The VA should finalize its evaluation of the adjoining property and purchase it right away, before circumstances change. We have hundreds of thousands of people who may choose to be buried here, and we should take advantage of every chance we get to expand the site so it can better accommodate the Western New York's veteran population."

"William 'Wild Bill' Donovan is one of the greatest patriots in modern American history. A decorated veteran and the only American to win our nation's four highest military awards, Bill Donovan served this country bravely and with honor. It is only fitting that Senator Schumer is pushing to name the first ever National Veterans Cemetery in Western New York after one of Western New York's most distinguished heroes," said retired NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division Judge, the Hon. Salvatore Martoche. Judge Martoche and William Donovan both served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York during their careers.

Schumer explained that William Joseph "Wild Bill" Donovan is one of Western New York's greatest heroes and launched his push for the VA to name the Western New York Cemetery site the "General William Donovan Western New York Veterans' Cemetery." Donovan was born to immigrant parents in Buffalo, NY in 1883. Donovan attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Niagara University and remains the only American to earn all four of the highest military awards in the United States: The Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal. He also earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart, and honors from many other nations for his service during both World War I and World War II. 

During World War I, thenLieutenant Colonel Donovan led the 1st battalion of the 165th Regiment of the 42nd Division. In 1918, he personally led the assaulting wave in an attack on a very strongly organized position near LandresetSt. Georges, France. When he was wounded in the leg by machinegun bullets, he refused to be evacuated and continued with his unit until it withdrew to a less exposed position. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery. During World War II, General Donovan founded and then led the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency.  His agency led successful wartime operations in Europe and around the world and was instrumental in many of the Allied successes. Following WWII, General Donovan retired from active duty and returned to his work as a lawyer, first serving as an aide to the U.S. chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials and later was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Thailand by President Dwight Eisenhower.

In addition to Schumer's campaign to name the site after 'Wild Bill' Donovan, Schumer also announced he is pushing the VA to purchase an additional 60acre site adjacent to the current cemetery property in Pembroke. Schumer explained that the owners of this site have offered the land to the VA, and both the seller and the VA have agreed to a price. The VA is now doing their due diligence on the site, like geological sampling, to confirm the land is suitable for cemetery use. Schumer explained that, when the VA initially conducted its search for a site, it was seeking a 200acre site. When this could not be found, it sought sites of 100 acres or more. Purchasing this adjoining 60acre site from the Haeger family, who now own the land, would increase the size of the cemetery by 50% and bring it close to the 200acres the VA was originally seeking.

Schumer encouraged the VA to finish its due diligence as swiftly as possible and move to purchase the site before circumstances change. Schumer noted that the first full phase of construction, currently planned for the 132acre site already under the VA's possession, will include the development of cemetery roads, an entrance, administration and public information center, committal shelters and a maintenance facility. This infrastructure will support approximately the first 10 years of burial capacity for casket gravesites, cremation sites and columbarium niches. Schumer said the sooner the new 60acre property can be purchased, the easier it will be to incorporate the area into the construction and design plans.

Schumer was joined by Jim Neider, Chairman of the Joint Veteran Council of Genesee County; Todd Baxter, CEO of the Veteran Outreach Center from Monroe County; Dr. Patrick Welch, Veteran Advocate, Educator and President of VetsHERD from Erie County, and dozens of local veterans from Monroe, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Livingston, and Erie counties; as well as representatives from the American Legion, VFW, and local elected officials.

In May, Schumer announced that the VA had selected a site for the longawaited Western New York Veterans' Cemetery on a 132acre parcel at 1232 Indian Falls Road in the Town of Pembroke, Genesee County, just north of the Pembroke Thruway exit. This Veterans' Cemetery will be the first and only of its kind in the BuffaloRochester area, and will save thousands of military families from having to travel upward of 100 miles to visit their loved ones at what is now the closest Veterans' Cemetery in Bath, NY. Schumer, along with various veterans groups, have led the charge to bring this muchneeded veterans' cemetery to Western New York, arguing that a lack of a national veterans' cemetery within a 75mile radius of Buffalo and Rochester meant that it is longpast time to establish a national veterans' cemetery at a closer location for the hundreds of thousands of veterans living in the region. The site is located approximately 30 miles from Buffalo and 48 miles from Rochester.  The cemetery will provide a fitting burial option to approximately 96,000 currently underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York.

Veterans with a qualifying discharge, their spouses and eligible dependent children may be buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents.  Burial benefits available for all eligible Veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker.

A copy of Senator Schumer's letter to Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson appears below.

 

Dear Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson,

The establishment of the nation's newest National Veterans Cemetery in Western New York is a longsought and well deserved opportunity to honor the more than 96,000 veterans and family members in this region by ensuring that they will have a proper military burial at a site close to their homes, families, and communities they served and defended. It is also a fitting opportunity to dedicate this new cemetery in honor of a son of western New York whose legacy of service and distinction both in the military and in civilian life typifies the patriotic spirit of western New York's distinguished heroes: Major General William Donovan.  I write concerning this matter as well as a related issue concerning the Veteran Administration's (VA) pursuit of an additional 60 acre parcel to expand upon the current 132 acre parcel acquired by the VA in May 2014, for the forthcoming Western New York Veterans Cemetery. 

William Joseph "Wild Bill" Donovan was born to immigrant parents in Buffalo, NY in 1883.  He attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Niagara University and remains the only American to earn the four highest military awards in the United States: The Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal, in addition to earning the Silver Star and Purple Heart, and honors from many other nations for his service during both World War I and World War II.  

Determined to serve his country, he joined the New York National Guard in 1912 as a captain.  During World War I, then Lieutenant Colonel Donovan led the 1st battalion of the 165th Regiment of the 42nd Division and as described in his Medal of Honor citation, "personally led the assaulting wave in an attack upon a very strongly organized position, and when our troops were suffering heavy casualties he encouraged all near him by his example, moving among his men in exposed positions, reorganizing decimated platoons, and accompanying them forward in attacks. When he was wounded in the leg by machinegun bullets, he refused to be evacuated and continued with his unit until it withdrew to a less exposed position."  Already a highly decorated veteran for his service in World War I, General Donovan founded, and then led, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency, during World War II.  His agency led successful wartime operations in Europe and around the world and was instrumental in many of the Allied successes during World War II.  Following WWII, General Donovan retired from active duty and returned to his work as a lawyer, first serving as an aide to the U.S. chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials and later was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Thailand by President Dwight Eisenhower. 

Thus, I ask for your consideration to name the new Western New York National Veterans Cemetery in honor of General William Donovan whose lifelong service to our nation is part and parcel of the spirit of service imbued by the heroic and faithful veterans from across the Western New York region.

In addition I ask that the VA expeditiously complete its due diligence to determine whether it may acquire an adjacent 60 acre parcel and thus expand the current cemetery land by nearly 50%.  I understand the VA has executed a Property Access Agreement with the willing sellers of this parcel and negotiated agreement on items including value and price.  In addition, the VA is conducting due diligence on the land to determine if, among other items, the geography is suitable for cemetery purposes.  If suitable, it is important to take this opportunity to purchase the land now, while available and incorporate it into the design and construction that is soon to get underway. The quicker we can get this land approved for cemetery use and under contract, the better position we will be in to serve the tens of thousands of underserved veterans and family members in the region.

I respectfully appreciate your consideration and attention to these two requests.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator



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