SARATOGA — The Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery holds its 24th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony Saturday, May 27. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. with a cannon salute.
“We’re going to honor and commemorate the service of the men and women who served. We’ll have a full-blown ceremony with a rifle salute, we have cannons here, music, song, speeches, replay presentations,” says Scott Lamb, cemetery director at Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, located in the town of Saratoga.
Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery is New York State’s sixth national veteran’s cemetery and the 116th in the National Cemetery Administration. There are currently over 26,000 interments, which began in July 1999, over its 350 acres, 90 acres of which have been developed.
Saturday’s ceremony will include Master Sgt. John Leavitt, U.S. Army retired Vietnam Veteran as Keynote Speaker. Special guests also include WWII Veteran Ken Bailey, and Korean War Veteran Paul O’Keefe.
The ceremony is open to the public.
“It starts at 11 and we ask you give yourself a little extra time to get here a bit early,” Lamb says. “It is a well-attended ceremony and usually 1,500-plus attend. It’s a beautiful ceremony and we’re supposed to have beautiful weather. If you’re looking for a very relaxing ceremony, to sit in a chair, listen to some songs and hear a few people speak and commemorate and remember our men and women who have faithfully served, it’s a great place to do it.”
The cemetery was renamed after the late Congressman Gerald Brooks Hunt Solomon, who advocated for the cemetery to be in Saratoga.
“It was originally going to be in the Utica-Rome area. Congressman Solomon advocated for it to be here, close to the Saratoga battlefield,” says Lamb, a Navy Veteran who served from 1990 to 1998. Solomon was buried at the cemetery Oct. 31, 2001. Three months later, President George W. Bush signed legislation renaming Saratoga National Cemetery as the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.
The ship’s bell from the USS Saratoga, CV-3, was installed as a memorial at the cemetery in 1999. The USS Saratoga was launched in 1925 and spent 20 years at sea, including action during World War II. An American gray granite memorial was erected in 2001 to honor veterans from Saratoga County. The American Veterans (AMVETS) donated a carillon in 1999, and a granite and bronze memorial was erected in honor of U.S. submariner veterans in 2002. The cemetery also has a walkway that features a variety of memorials erected by veterans and fraternal organizations in honor of events and fallen comrades.
More than 1.4 million veterans live in New York and more than 225,000 reside in the Albany/Saratoga area. Many of the questions the national cemetery in Saratoga is asked comes from veterans inquiring whether they are eligible for burial there.
“A lot of veterans don’t realize that they are eligible, along with their spouse, if married, and any dependent children. You don’t need to have served in war – you just have to have been honorably discharged and most folks don’t know that,” Lamb says. “There is some paperwork involved, and we encourage folks to look at that. I’m a veteran myself, and I did it to see how long it took. It was a very easy process, and I got an official letter back that basically says I’m deemed eligible for burial when the time comes.”
When a Veteran, service member, or family member qualifies for burial in a VA national cemetery, they receive certain burial benefits at no cost to their family. “After you come through the cemetery everything is paid for by the government - that’s the opening and closing of the gravesite, the placing of the headstone or marker, the perpetual care, the maintenance – all paid for, for you and your spouse,” Lamb says.
The cemetery in Saratoga conducts approximately 1,300 interments a year and has space available to accommodate casketed and cremated remains. Since 1999, the cemetery counts a total of about 26,000 interments and has ample space for expansion. Eligibility information for veterans may be found at: www.va.gov/burials-memorials/eligibility.
Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery is open daily from dawn to dusk and is located in the town of Saratoga. For more information go to: cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/geraldbhsolomonsaratoga.asp. Follow on Instagram: instagram.com/gbhs_saratoganatcem, and Facebook: facebook.com/NatCemSaratoga.