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The State Should Make Veterans Cemeteries Priority

New York, which prides itself on being first on a laundry’s list of progressive causes, is curiously slow in establishing its first state-owned veterans cemetery.

New York is one of four states without a state veterans cemetery for veterans and their dependents to be buried free of charge. The state has previously said cost is a factor, but that’s frankly comical given New York’s government typically spends money like a 5-year-old let loose in a penny candy store.

We can understand the frustration of veterans, then, when Jamestown’s Veterans Memorial Commission members were unable to come up with a site to submit to the state for consideration for the veterans cemetery to be located in Jamestown. The commission was given less than a month to submit a site — which means the city would have had to find a site it controlled. That’s a tall order for a landlocked city that doesn’t have that kind of space readily available.

There have been discussions of a state veterans ceremony for years, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo deciding to make it a priority in the past two years. Why, then, was the request for information period only one month?

It would have been nice if a veterans cemetery could have been created in Jamestown, but at least Chautauqua County will be represented in the process after Robert McIntosh, a retired Marine Corps veteran, received approval from the Ripley Town Board to propose 40 acres of land along Route 5 in Ripley for a veterans cemetery. McIntosh has been working the veterans cemetery project in Ripley on since 2012 and has been closely following the issue for years.

The effort to create a state-owned veterans cemetery in New York state is a worthy effort, but the state’s handling of the cemetery makes clear it is not a priority at the state level. If the effort were a priority, local governments would have been given much more lead time for the state’s request to submit suitable sites and the state would have found money in the budget for the project long before now.

In our opinion, the state should make veterans cemeteries — that’s right, more than one — a priority with legitimate funding streams and a true public outreach effort. Our veterans deserve that much.

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