Benjamin Franklin is given credit for saying, “One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead.”

 

Benjamin Franklin is given credit for saying, “One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead.”
 Memorial Day is the one day set aside to honor our fallen heroes – many of them young – who died in service to our country. They died to preserve the basic rights we often take for granted – life, liberty, and freedom from tyranny.
Springwater has nine cemeteries where more than 700 military men and women are buried. Every year, just before Memorial Day, members of the Springwater American Legion fan out in these cemeteries to mark the graves of veterans with a flag. On Memorial Day,  legion members accompanied by an Honor Guard, a minister, a bugler and usually one of the Junior members of the Post visit every cemetery, present colors, play taps, offer prayers, a 21-gun salute, and recite “In Flanders Fields.” It is a time-honored tradition.
As the economy has declined, many cemetery associations have seen their perpetual care funds generate nearly no interest. It has become increasingly difficult for them to provide paid personnel to maintain the cemeteries.
Governor Patterson signed a bill in May that allows towns to assist associations in the care and preservation of the cemeteries; this Bill was a necessary measure to ensure that associations thrived as the economy floundered and to prevent cemeteries from being abandoned or turned over to local governments to maintain.
Four of Springwater’s older cemeteries, Capron on East Avenue, the Ford/Christian and Green Gull cemeteries, both on Canadice Road, were lovingly cared for by the town and/or volunteers who adopted them. Unfortunately, this practice ceased under the present administration.
Last year, Legion members stood in grass nearly to their knees to pay respect to our fallen heroes. Despite a law confirmed by this writer with the Division of Cemeteries in Albany that requires towns that have municipal or hold abandoned cemeteries to “mow and maintain them at least three times a year,” our town officials have chosen to fire the volunteers and do nothing.
The town insurance covers a visitor if struck by a falling limb or headstone, or falls while visiting one of these cemeteries. Cemetery associations are required to carry a similar policy to protect visitors.  Under NY GMU Law, section 165-c, “no municipal corporation which establishes a volunteer cemetery maintenance and cleanup program shall be liable for any damage sustained by any person participating and no cause for action shall be adjudicated by any court in this state…”
Why, then, has the current administration overlooked the final resting places of our national heroes? Why did they fire the volunteers who lovingly cared for the graves of our ancestors who fought valiantly to guarantee the very inalienable rights which, today, allows these same people to serve in their elected capacities?
Memorial Day is Monday and the Springwater American Legion is already gearing up for the traditional commemorative rites. We are prepared to pay homage to our fallen heroes, some whose graves date back to the Revolutionary War.
The deplorable conditions existing in three of our cemeteries notwithstanding, we will remember our veteran brothers and sisters. Will our town officials show the same kind of respect for these heroes by mowing these cemeteries?
As Ben Franklin so succinctly said, “One can tell…,” and doing nothing speaks volumes about who we are and where our priorities lie.