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Vice President’s Report, May/June 2022 -   -  

Western New York VA Cemetery

I received a request from former VVA Board member Patrick Welch, who provided me with information concerning a problem at the Western New York VA Cemetery in Pembroke, New York.

An article published on February 13 in the Buffalo News provided a stunning headline: “Deaths near VA Cemetery Tragic and Avoidable.” Two Vietnam-era Army veterans, Arnold Herdendorf and Christopher Rowell, died in a car crash on September 22, 2021, after attending the burial service of a brother-in-arms. They died at the intersection of Alleghany Road and Indian Falls Road immediately adjacent to the cemetery. It appears that the crash could have been prevented if the VA had heeded warnings about serious traffic dangers on Alleghany Road’s northbound turn lane. Since the opening of this intersection, several accidents have occurred there.

VA was advised that the configuration of the turn lane would obscure views of through traffic waiting to enter the intersection. For three months, two VA employees, James R. Metcalfe II and Peter C. Rizzo, worked on a solution with state, county, and local officials. But in the spring of 2020 they were silenced by VA leaders in the North Atlantic District Director’s office of the National Cemetery Administration.

This happened over fears that alternative traffic safety improvements would delay the opening of the Western New York National Cemetery in December 2020. Had VA heeded the warnings of Metcalfe and Rizzo, the deaths of Herdendorf and Rowell would have been avoided.

New York’s two U.S. Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, recently wrote a letter to the VA Secretary citing the accident. A new right hand turn lane was subsequently installed 600 feet from the entrance to the new cemetery.

We should urge VA Secretary McDonough and the VA National Cemetery Administration to take all necessary steps to improve the safety of Alleghany Road and Indian Falls Road adjacent to Western New York National Cemetery, ensuring a long-term solution to this apparent traffic nightmare. One death is too many.


In the last issue of The Veteran I wrote that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 authorizes all veterans who are 0 percent to 10 percent rated and higher to gain access to active military bases for the purpose of visiting the base commissary, military service exchange (PX), and other retail outlets. I received several calls about that with differing interpretations of the information.

Therefore, wanting to make sure my research was accurate, I rechecked the source of my information, the VA’s website. What I found was that veterans need a Veteran Health Identification Card and family caregivers must have an eligibility letter from VA’s Office of Community Care to take advantage of these benefits.

The card should display the veteran’s eligibility status, such as being a Purple Heart recipient, a former POW, or being service-connected. Upon the first visit to an installation, eligible veterans and caregivers must stop at the visitor control center. To ensure the accuracy of the veteran’s ID, another photo ID issued by a federal, state, or local government agency must also be shown.

Depending on the type of installation and the local requirements, you may enroll for recurring access, which would allow you to proceed to the gate for entry on subsequent visits without having to stop again at the visitor control center. All individuals seeking access to DOD installations, as well as all eligible veterans, must pass a basic, on-the-spot background check prior to enrolling, with an automated check each time they enter the installation. Veterans with felony convictions, felony arrest warrants, or other types of criminal history will not be permitted entry.

To read all the details, go to https://www.va.gov/health-care/get-health-id-card or https://blogs.va.gov This is still a wonderful benefit if you are able to take advantage.


On March 29 VVA and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund commemorated National Vietnam War Veterans Day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It was a wonderful event. VVA was there in force. National President Jack McManus gave an address. I was fortunate enough to escort Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough there.




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Geoffrey Clifford Mark F. Erickson Chuck Forsman